Encryption: Are there any secrets on the Web?

The NSA has cracked common forms of encryption used not just by terrorists, but also by regular consumers and businesses.

Is anything online safe? asked Larry -Seltzer in ZDNet.com. Last week, a joint report from The Guardian, The New York Times, and ProPublica.org revealed that the National Security Agency had managed to crack many common forms of encryption used on the Internet not just by terrorists, but also by regular consumers and businesses.

The NSA’s efforts appear mostly geared “to get around the cryptography rather than to break it directly,” often using “black hat methods.” The truly upsetting revelation is that the NSA is allegedly working hand in hand with tech companies to gain backdoor access, allowing analysts “to sniff traffic to these sites unimpeded by encryption.”

Let’s not freak out, said Sean Lawson in Forbes.com. “The fact is that the NSA is not likely to want into your, or my, computer.” The real problem is that other people might. It now appears that some common tools—like the encryption many companies use to protect their private networks and the 4G/LTE encryption used by wireless carriers—might be vulnerable to NSA intrusion.
But such encryption can still “provide protection against the more likely threat, which is a malicious actor in the coffee shop sniffing traffic and stealing personal information from other users.” The key to personal Internet security is to stay vigilant. It makes no sense to abandon tools that enhance your privacy out of concern over “a ubiquitous adversary that is likely not targeting you, and that you likely could not stop anyway.”

And there are plenty of such tools at your disposal, said Bruce Schneier in The Guardian. As long as you’re using the latest software, the best encryption available, and a strong password, odds are your data will be safe, at least from the garden-variety hackers that do the most damage. But if you’re concerned, start using software like Tor, which anonymizes your network activity. Hackers and the NSA might target Tor users and others who encrypt their communications, “but it’s work for them.”

And by taking those precautions, “you’re much better protected than if you communicate in the clear.” For the absolute highest security, break the chain of transmission with an “air gap.” That is, buy a new computer that has never been connected to the Internet and transfer files only on physical media, such as USB sticks. And don’t trust commercial or proprietary security software, especially from larger vendors. “My guess is that most encryption products from large U.S. companies have NSA-friendly back doors.” Open-source products are much more difficult for hackers to secretly infiltrate or modify.

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The Largest List of text & Chat acronyms is available as a book!

Ever seen an acronym you didn’t know? Are you a parent or teacher with kids online? Are you a business professional trying to stay savvy? Or just someone who loves to get online…

In an age where everything from job searching to dating is interactive, knowing how to communicate in your online life is a must.  There are new technologies, new online services, and new lingo created every day. If you think it's tough to keep up with it all, you’re not alone.

Welcome to the weird, wonderful world of online jargon ;-) Not only has the Internet and texting changed the way we communicate, it has spawned an entirely new language that is growing every day.

That’s why there is NetLingo, to keep track of new terms and organize it in a way that is useful to you. Whether you're a professional who feels like you're on information overload, or a power user who wants more, or a parent who wants to keep up with your kids, NetLingo.com can help.

NetLingo published a second book “NetLingo: The List - The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms” and it contains all of acronyms and abbreviations you’ll see in text messages, email, IM, social networks, websites, dating sites, job sites, auction sites, discussion forums, gaming sites, chat rooms, blogs… oh, and in the real world too.

The updated 2014 version of “NetLingo: The List” (136 pages) defines the crazy array of letters, numbers and symbols that comprise our new conversations. Known as acronyms, abbreviations, SMS talk and leetspeak, these terms are used by millions of people in a variety of online settings. This edition contains French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Welch, Czech and Chinese text terms too!

See if you know any of these popular acronyms and text codes
What are acronyms and why are they so popular?

With millions of people texting and instant messaging every day, it's no wonder you've seen this cryptic looking code. Acronyms are an integral part of computer culture and grew rapidly on the Internet. Now, along with an alphabet soup of abbreviations and symbolic messages, this online jargon has become a language of its own.

So what are acronyms? Shorthand? How do you begin to understand a new language?

Let’s start with the basics: An acronym is derived from the first letters of a phrase and is pronounced as a new word, for example POTATO stands for “People Over Thirty Acting Twenty One” and is pronounced "potato."

Shorthand refers to an abbreviation, or initialism, that is pronounced by saying the letters one-by-one, for example FYI is pronounced "F-Y-I" and BRB is pronounced "B-R-B".  There are, of course, exceptions. Some acronyms go both ways, such as FAQ, which can be pronounced "fak" or "F-A-Q".

It should also be noted that acronyms are generally typed IN ALL CAPS (not to be confused with SHOUTING) whereas shorthand is often typed in all lowercase.

Now let’s start to mix things up. Sometimes the shorthand isn't shorter than the original phrase, for example "dewd" means "dude" and "kewl" means "cool" and :::poof::: means "I'm gone".

Now let’s add some symbols and numbers! Leetspeak is the name for a type of symbolic jargon in which you replace regular letters with other keyboard characters to form words, for example:

·      backward and forward slashes create this shape "/\/\" to stand for the letter M;
·      numbers and symbols often replace the letters they resemble (for example the term "leetspeak" is written as "!337$p34k");
·      letters can be substituted for other letters that might sound alike (such as "ph" is transposed with "f" so "phear" is used instead of "fear"); and
·      common typing errors such as "teh" instead of "the" and “pwn” instead of “own” are left uncorrected.

The result is a dynamic written language that eludes conformity or consistency. In fact, the culture of online jargon encourages new forms of expression and users will often award each other's individual creativity.

So what makes texting and instant messaging so popular?

In short, it’s fast, cheap, and cool. itz hw 2 tlk w/o bng hrd ;-)

Texting lets you finalize last-minute plans, track down friends, send pictures, correspond while traveling, and pass on information with just a few clicks of the cell phone keypad. IM lets you have real-time conversations with friends or colleagues or several people at once on your computer screen. Texing and IM are popular because they are private: no one can hear you “talking.” Acronyms and smileys are popular because they’re short and they bring emotional expression into a written world. 

Face it, communication is changing. It’s becoming quicker and less formal, and while it’s impossible to capture every instance of every text message out there, this is the definitive list. Many people at some point will use or see a variation of a term in this book, often without the vowels so as to keep the text or IM short. Such as: omw, meet me n frnt pls -or- got ur vm, thx 4 info, ttyl

Think it’s tough to understand? It’s not, take this test:

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghi t pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh?

Like most new things, communicating in abbreviations may seem strange at first but then fun after awhile. Get copies of “NetLingo: The List” for anyone you know who loves to get online! Not recommended for children under 14 due to serious adult humor, it will entertain you as you look up and translate the chat acronyms and text symbols you come across in your life online. The one place to learn all of the online terms you’ll ever need to know is NetLingo.com.

Erin Jansen is founder of NetLingo.com and author of “NetLingo: The Internet Dictionary” and “NetLingo: The List - The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms.” Sign up for the free Acronym of the Day!

The economics of Netflix: Making a $100 million show

Economics of Netflix
Source: GreatBusinessSchools.org

The Internet: Is the U.S. losing control of the Web?

According to some experts, Internet freedom is in danger. L. Gordon Crovitz in The Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration announced plans to relinquish oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, an international consortium of business groups and government agencies that assigns and maintains Web addresses and domain names. But the move will invite “Russia, China, and other authoritarian governments” to “fill the power vacuum caused by America’s unilateral retreat.” Russia and China have already pushed to get rid of ICANN altogether, looking to replace it with a group that would outlaw anonymity on the Web and tax sites like Google and Facebook to “discourage global Internet companies from giving everyone equal access.”

“Hold on a minute,” said Katherine Maher in Politico.com. “No one actually ‘€˜controls’ the Internet.” ICANN’s job is to coordinate the names and numbering system used to “match human-readable domains” with their number-based Internet Protocol addresses. And while ICANN is technically based in California, the organization has offices all over the world and commercial and noncommercial members from 111 countries and international organizations. That’s why ceding U.S. control of ICANN is the right move, said Edward J. Black in HuffingtonPost.com. With each new revelation of online surveillance and censorship, it’s becoming clearer than ever that Internet freedom “faces unprecedented challenges.” By “strengthening a multi-stakeholder group like ICANN,” the Obama administration is trying to pre-empt a political standoff with other world powers over Internet access for the general public. After all, “we do not‘€”and should not‘€”try to retain or expand the role of any governments seeking to control” the Internet, including our own.

But try telling that to lawmakers, said Brian Fung in WashingtonPost.com. Politicians worry that a multi-stakeholder system “could enable foreign governments to impose regulations on the Internet.” They just don’t get that the United States’ oversight of ICANN has been mainly symbolic. In fact, it is precisely our government’s nominal position atop the addressing system that “gives Russia and China the grounds to call for a different” one. Ceding control doesn’t open the floodgates for Russia, or China, or even North Korea to “run roughshod over the Web.” Instead, it evens the playing field. And since ICANN is specifically set up to prevent “any one actor from dominating what happens,” any fears about a foreign takeover of the Web are pretty far-fetched. What’s more, ICANN so far has proved rather effective at “keeping Russia, China, and other authoritarian regimes in check.”

- As seen in The Week
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You’re under surveillance: Dragnet Nation

In ‘private’ online forums, at malls, and even at home, Julia Angwin reports, someone is tracking you.

Sharon and Bilal couldn’t be more different. Sharon Gill is a 42-year-old single mother who lives in a small town in southern Arkansas. She ekes out a living trolling for treasures at yard sales and selling them at a flea market. Bilal Ahmed, 36, is a single, Rutgers-educated man who lives in a penthouse in Sydney, Australia. He runs a chain of convenience stores.
Although they have never met in person, they became close friends on a password-protected online forum for patients struggling with mental health issues. Sharon was trying to wean herself from anti-depressant medications. Bilal had just lost his mother and was suffering from anxiety and depression.

From their far corners of the world, they were able to cheer each other up in their darkest hours. Sharon turned to Bilal because she felt she couldn’t confide in her closest relatives and neighbors. “I live in a small town,” Sharon told me. “I don’t want to be judged on this mental illness.”

But in 2010, Sharon and Bilal were horrified to discover they were being watched on their private social network.

It started with a break-in. On May 7, 2010, PatientsLikeMe noticed unusual activity on the “Mood” forum where Sharon and Bilal hung out. A new member of the site, using sophisticated software, was attempting to “scrape,” or copy, every single message off PatientsLikeMe’s private “Mood” and “Multiple Sclerosis” forums.

PatientsLikeMe managed to block and identify the intruder: It was the Nielsen Co., the media-research firm. Nielsen monitors online “buzz” for its clients, including drugmakers. On May 18, PatientsLikeMe sent a cease-and-desist letter to Nielsen and notified its members of the break-in.
But there was a twist. PatientsLikeMe used the opportunity to inform members of the fine print they may not have noticed when they signed up. The website was also selling data about its members to pharmaceutical and other companies.

The news was a double betrayal for Sharon and Bilal. Not only had an intruder been monitoring them, but so was the very place that they considered to be a safe space. 

Even worse, none of it was necessarily illegal. Nielsen was operating in a gray area of the law even as it violated the terms of service at PatientsLikeMe. And it was entirely legal for PatientsLikeMe to disclose to its members in its fine print that it would sweep up all their information and sell it.

We are living in a Dragnet Nation—a world of indiscriminate tracking where institutions are stockpiling data about individuals at an unprecedented pace. The rise of indiscriminate tracking is powered by the same forces that have brought us the technology we love so much—powerful computing on our desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Before computers were commonplace, it was expensive and difficult to track individuals. 

Governments kept records only of occasions, such as birth, marriage, property ownership, and death. Companies kept records when a customer bought something and filled out a warranty card or joined a loyalty club. But technology has made it cheap and easy for institutions of all kinds to keep records about almost every moment of our lives.

The combination of massive computing power, smaller and smaller devices, and cheap storage has enabled a huge increase in indiscriminate tracking of personal data. The trackers include many of the institutions that are supposed to be on our side, such as the government and the companies with which we do business.

Of course, the largest of the dragnets appear to be those operated by the U.S. government. In addition to its scooping up vast amounts of foreign communications, the National Security Agency is also scooping up Americans’ phone calling records and Internet traffic, according to documents revealed in 2013 by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Meanwhile, commercial dragnets are blossoming. AT&T and Verizon are selling information about the location of their cellphone customers, albeit without identifying them by name. Mall owners have started using technology to track shoppers based on the signals emitted by the cellphones in their pockets. Retailers such as Whole Foods have used digital signs that are actually facial recognition scanners. 
Online, hundreds of advertisers and data brokers are watching as you browse the Web. Looking up “blood sugar” could tag you as a possible diabetic by companies that profile people based on their medical condition and then provide drug companies and insurers access to that information. Searching for a bra could trigger an instant bidding war among lingerie advertisers at one of the many online auction houses.

In 2009, 15-year-old high school student Blake Robbins was confronted by an assistant principal who claimed she had evidence that he was engaging in “improper behavior in his home.” It turned out that his school had installed spying software on the laptops that it issued to the school’s 2,300 students. The school’s technicians had activated software on some of the laptops that could snap photos using the webcam. Blake’s webcam captured him holding pill-shaped objects. Blake and his family said they were Mike and Ike candies. The assistant principal believed they were drugs.

Blake’s family sued the district for violating their son’s privacy. The school said the software had been installed to allow technicians to locate the computers in case of theft. However, the school did not notify students of the software’s existence, nor did it set up guidelines for when the technical staff could operate the cameras.

An internal investigation revealed that the cameras had been activated on more than 40 laptops and captured more than 65,000 images. Some students were photographed thousands of times, including when they were partially undressed and sleeping. The school board later banned the school’s use of cameras to surveil students.

On April 5, 2011, John Gass picked up his mail in Needham, Mass., and was surprised to find a letter stating that his driver’s license had been revoked. “I was just blindsided,” John said.
John is a municipal worker—he repairs boilers for the town of Needham. Without a driver’s license, he could not do his job. He called the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and was instructed to appear at a hearing and bring documentation of his identity. They wouldn’t tell him why his license was revoked.

When John showed up for his hearing, he learned that the RMV had begun using facial recognition software to search for identity fraud. The software compared license photos to identify people who might have applied for multiple licenses under aliases. The software had flagged him and another man as having similar photos and had required them to prove their identities.
John was a victim of what I call the “police lineup”—dragnets that allow the police to treat everyone as a suspect. This overturns our traditional view that our legal system treats us as “innocent until proven guilty.”

The most obvious example of this is airport body scanners. The scanners conduct the most intrusive of searches—allowing the viewer to peer beneath a person’s clothes—without any suspicion that the person being scanned is a criminal. In fact, the burden is on the individual to “prove” his or her innocence, by passing through the scanner without displaying any suspicious items.
John Gass luckily was given a chance to plead his case. But it was an absurd case. He was presented with a photo of himself from 13 years ago.

“It doesn’t look like you,” the officer said.

“Of course it doesn’t,” John said. “It’s 13 years later. I was a hundred pounds lighter.”

John presented his passport and his birth certificate, and his license was reinstated. But the officers wouldn’t give him any paperwork to prove that it was reinstated. He wanted a piece of paper to show his boss that he was okay to drive again. 

John filed a lawsuit against the RMV, claiming that he had been denied his constitutionally protected right to due process. The RMV argued that he had been given a window of opportunity to dispute the revocation because the letter had been mailed on March 24 and the license wasn’t revoked until April 1. John didn’t pick up his mail until April 5. The Suffolk County Superior Court granted the RMV’s motion to dismiss. Gass appealed, but the appellate court also ruled against him.

John felt betrayed by the whole process. He now is very careful around state police because he worries that he won’t be treated fairly. “There are no checks and balances,” he said. “It is only natural humans are going to make mistakes. But there is absolutely no oversight.

These stories illustrate a simple truth: Information is power. Anyone who holds a vast amount of information about us has power over us.

At first, the information age promised to empower individuals with access to previously hidden information. We could comparison shop across the world for the best price, for the best bit of knowledge, for people who shared our views.

But now the balance of power is shifting, and large institutions—both governments and corporations—are gaining the upper hand in the information wars, by tracking vast quantities of information about mundane aspects of our lives.

Now we are learning that people who hold our data can subject us to embarrassment, or drain our pocketbooks, or accuse us of criminal behavior. This knowledge could, in turn, create a culture of fear.

Consider Sharon and Bilal. Once they learned they were being monitored on PatientsLikeMe, Sharon and Bilal retreated from the Internet. Bilal deleted his posts from the forum. He took down the drug dosage history that he had uploaded onto the site. Sharon stopped using the Internet altogether and doesn’t allow her son to use it without supervision.

They started talking by phone but missed the online connections they had forged on PatientsLikeMe. “I haven’t found a replacement,” Sharon said. Bilal agreed: “The people on PLM really know how it feels.”

But neither of them could tolerate the fear of surveillance. Sharon said she just couldn’t live with the uncertainty of “not knowing if every keystroke I’m making is going to some other company,” she said. Bilal added, “I just feel that the trust was broken.”

Sharon and Bilal’s experience is a reminder that for all its technological pyrotechnics, the glory of the digital age has always been profoundly human. Technology allows us to find people who share our inner thoughts, to realize we’re not alone. But technology also allows others to spy on us, causing us to pull back from digital intimacy.
When people ask me why I care about privacy, I always return to the simple thought that I want there to be safe, private spaces in the world for Sharon and Bilal, for myself, for my children, for everybody. I want there to be room in the digital world for letters sealed with hot wax. Must we always be writing postcards that can—and will—be read by anyone along the way?

As seen in The Week, excerpted from Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance by Julia Angwin. Published in February 2014 by Times Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. ©2014 by Julia Angwin. All rights reserved.

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How to create a culture around your brand

Corporate Culture
Source: Masters-in-Marketing.org

The future of artificial limbs

The past decade has seen huge leaps in prosthetics. How far will the technology take us? Writers at The Week investigate, what’s driven the advances?

A combination of modern technology and the horrors of war. Since ancient times, combat injuries have forced doctors and inventors to create replacements for missing body parts, ranging from metal hooks to wooden legs.

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, improvements in body armor, triage, and surgical techniques meant that wounded soldiers were three times more likely to survive than casualties in Vietnam. As a result, about 1,800 vets came home with one or more missing limbs, prompting the government to begin investing heavily in improving those soldiers’ lives.

The U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has spent $144 million since 2006 on prosthetics research and development, a project labeled “the Manhattan Project of prosthetics.” “Our goal has not been just get out of bed and walk,” said Paul Pasquina, chief of orthopedics at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, “but to get out of bed and thrive.”

What can the new prosthetics do?
They are getting closer and closer to approximating the function of human limbs. “Myoelectric” hands have movable fingers that grip and gesture naturally, and move in two dozen ways in response to tiny muscular movements in the residual limb. Prosthetic legs—once clumsy, heavy, and wooden—are now light and agile and come with gyroscopic knees that flex and extend, allowing users to climb stairs and ride a bike. These state-of-the-art legs take in data on how the wearers walk and build algorithms to anticipate their intentions, so as to move more smoothly. Advances in materials have made limbs lighter and easier to use, and they can be covered in flesh-colored silicone “skin” that looks so natural it even comes with freckles.

How does that affect users?
Amputees are now able to live much fuller and more active lives than ever before. Prior to his sensational murder trial, South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, whose legs were amputated below the knee when he was a baby, was beating able-bodied runners and competing with Olympic athletes. Some competitors even complained that his carbon-fiber prosthetic “blades” gave him an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners. In recent years, more than 300 military amputees have returned to active duty, including 53 who went back to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The technology is there to get you back where you used to be,” says Army Staff Sgt. Billy Costello, who lost his right leg to an IED in 2011. “You just have to make calls to see who’s done what already.”’

What’s the next challenge?

To develop devices that will allow these mechanical appendages to be directly controlled by the user’s thoughts. That frontier is already being explored. In 2011, Cathy Hutchinson, a 58-year-old stroke victim and quadriplegic, commanded a robotic arm to pick up a container of coffee and bring it to her lips just by thinking about it. It was the first time in 15 years that she was able to drink without assistance. “The smile on her face was something I will never forget,” said Leigh Hochberg, a member of the research team. The technology, which uses a microelectrode implanted in the motor cortex to interpret brain activity, requires subjects to be hardwired to external computers. But devices currently in development may soon allow for the entire process to happen inside a person’s body.

How will that work?

Prosthetics are being engineered to respond to nerve signals. This new technique, called targeted muscle reinnervation surgery, utilizes functioning muscles like the thigh or pectorals, and sends signals from the brain to the bionic limb, a process known as brain-machine interface, or BMI. A DARPA-funded program has spent $71.2 million since 2009 on BMI-related projects, with the goal of transforming prosthetic limbs into an extension of a patient’s own flesh. The redirected nerves not only enable movement by thought—they enable amputees to “feel” objects through their prosthetics. “I could feel round things and soft things and hard things,” says Dennis Sørensen, a 36-year-old from Denmark who recently tested a prototype of an artificial hand. “It’s so amazing.’’

What does the future hold?
Truly bionic human beings—part flesh, part machine. Experts say that 50 percent of the human body is currently replaceable with artificial implants and advanced prosthetics. Mechanical organs, including the heart, lungs, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys, either currently exist or are in advanced stages of development. Many electronic implants, like pacemakers and hearing aids, already control, restore, or enhance normal body functions. In coming decades, said Andy Miah, director of the Creative Futures Institute, prosthetics will be able to do far more than just replace body parts lost to injury, disease, or age—they will extend the boundaries of what humans can do. “These technologies don’t just repair us, they make us better than well,” Miah said. “The human enhancement market will reveal the truth about our biological conditions—we are all disabled.”

The real Iron Man
Films such as Star Wars, RoboCop, and The Matrix depict a world where people and their machines are completely merged. Futurists and researchers in prosthetic technology say that nearly everything depicted in these films is possible; indeed, current advances in robotics, neuroscience, and microelectronics are bringing the visions of science fiction closer to reality every year. Over the next two decades, scientists expect to introduce bionic appendages that respond to thoughts, and chips implanted in the brain with the potential to download data directly into human memory banks. This summer, the military plans to test the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS), which will encase soldiers in a powered exoskeleton with bulletproof body armor, a built-in weapon, and computer-generated “situational awareness displays.” It won’t fly like Iron Man, but William McRaven, chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command, said the suit “will yield a revolutionary improvement in survivability and capability” for warriors and “a huge comparative advantage over our enemies.”

As seen in The Week ;-)
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It's time for women to start asking for raises

Turns out the old adage is true: If you don’t ask, you don’t get, said Jennifer Ludden in NPR.org. New research by economists at Carnegie Mellon University found that “in the face of a persistent gender pay gap,” one reason men still outearn women is because “women simply don’t ask for more money.”

According to economics professor Linda Babcock, men are four times more likely than women to ask for a raise. That “failure to negotiate higher pay is crucial,” says Babcock, because it can have a “snowball effect” resulting in smaller raises and bonuses over the course of a woman’s career. And that doesn’t even account for “company retirement contributions, which are also based on a share of salary.”

The problem can also “carry over to a new employer, who is almost certain to ask, ‘What was your last salary?’” Part of the reason women don’t negotiate is that they “often just don’t think about asking for more pay,” and “if they do, they find the very notion of haggling intimidating.”

With good reason, said Tara Siegel Bernard in The New York Times. Experts say that when women “advocate for themselves” and “act in ways that aren’t considered sufficiently feminine,” bosses may “find it unseemly, if only on a subconscious level.”

Negotiation gurus say women should “take a more calibrated approach” when asking for a raise or a new job title. And while “some women may bridle” at the notion of conforming to stereotypes, “we might as well use them to move forward.”

In that case, “consider these tactics,” said Aine Creedon in NonprofitQuarterly.org. If you’re angling for a raise, be prepared. “Females tend to not ask for raises when there isn’t a clear standard on how much to ask for,” so do your research.

Recruiters can give you an idea of what you’re worth, and networking with male colleagues and other employees in your workplace or at peer organizations “can be very informative.” And “bringing up outside offers” can help make your bosses realize your value. Sadly, this tactic may still be “seen as aggressive for females” and can backfire. “Approaching the matter in a passive tone” might be more effective. In fact, “the way you choose to present yourself and the language you use can make or break your chances.”

Negotiate in person, not by email, which can “come off as impersonal and cold.” It also helps to time your request to a performance review or recent accomplishment, and focus on using words like “we” and “us” that show “how this move will benefit the whole organization.”

AS seen in The Week ;-)
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Did you hear about Teju Cole's essay on Twitter?

Teju Cole might be the opposite of a book snob, said Aaron Calvin in BuzzFeed.com. Earlier this year, the award-winning Nigerian-American novelist turned heads by publishing a 4,000-word, deeply reported essay on immigration via Twitter, breaking the text into 250 tweets.

Except for the format, “A Piece of the Wall” reads like an article that the 38-year-old Brooklyn-based scholar might have written for The New Yorker or The New York Times. But he wanted to be sure it could be read by people who lack either access to or a deep interest in magazines or books. “In various parts of West Africa, there are different iterations of the idea that ‘White people like paper so much that they even wipe their butts with it,’” he says. “I love print. But maybe not everything has to be on it.”

No one should suffer an excess of guilt for failing to read Cole’s newly published novella, Every Day Is for the Thief, said The New York Times. As voracious a reader as he’s been since childhood, Cole claims not to worry about any of the revered books that he’s so far failed to crack. “I have not read most of the big 19th-century novels that people consider ‘essential,’ nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter,” he says. “But this does not embarrass me. There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many play-lists to assemble, and many favorite books to reread.

Life’s too short for anxious scorekeeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know.”

As seen in The Week ;-)
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The psychology of video game addiction

What turns a hobby into a sickness? Jack Flanagan at The Kernel investigates. "I would not inflict this game upon anyone" was the testimony of a gamer codenamed Leo as he looked into the camera, his left cheek illuminated, offscreen, by a computer monitor. He was speaking about World of Warcraft, the notorious poster boy of the gaming industry, and, later in the documentary, he'd reveal why: 12 hours a day at a computer screen, sometimes more.

No money, no education, no life. Leo gave everything to World of Warcraft and, unsurprisingly, it gave nothing back. But Leo's story is not unusual. Scan internet forums like Reddit or Olganon (On-line Gamers Anonymous) are replete with horror stories of lives lost — in some cases, literally. In 2005, a South Korean man died after a reported 50-hour video gaming session, and in 2012 a Taiwanese man was discovered dead in his gaming chair, arms outstretched for his computer even in the middle of a fatal cardiac arrest. No, you wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Video game addiction exists. It has all the features you need to classify an addiction: losing jobs and loved ones; withdrawal symptoms like cold sweats and anger; developing migraines and back problems and, very occasionally, death. And it's occurring around the globe, but especially in America, the UK, and parts of Asia (China, Korea, and Japan).

How many people are affected, no one knows, but two statistics stand out: Globally, this is a $66 billion dollar industry, and in 2007 a study found almost 12 percent of participants in a 7,000 person study were diagnosed as addicted to video games. If that trend even partially reflects numbers in the greater population, we're in trouble.

So why does video game addiction merit little more than a footnote in the latest DSM, the manual for understanding and diagnosing mental illness? Studies have been conducted which look at the source of the problem. We've moved past the wagging finger of maternal disapprobation, which tells us, "just switch it off, for God's sake," and are now just starting to take it seriously.

The right questions are at least now being asked: How can a video game become addictive? What is it in the brain that switches, or was always ready-to-go, which makes a person sit until their back aches and their eyes stream? What turns a hobby into a sickness?

A recent study looked into motivations in video gaming addiction: A questionnaire asked gamers found on video game websites what they got out of the gaming. They got a huge number of respondents: over 1,600. The survey justified stereotypes: Participants were 87 percent male, 79 percent white. Joseph Hilgard, one of the researchers, said he came to the study thinking they might learn more about the reward pathways in the brain — the "go-to" areas in addiction research.

When we do anything that triggers our brain's reward system, that information gets locked into our brains. A reward system is, basically, a system that governs how the brain feels when we do something — a chore, a job, anything — that results in reward at least some of the time. If we keep getting a reward for the same task, we start to understand the relationship between the two and our brain builds the appropriate connections. It means the next time we come across the chance to do that same task, we assume we're at least a bit likely to get a gift in return. How strong the reward system is in our brains depends on how often we get the reward and how big of a reward it is.

Video games are built to exploit this part of our brain. Kill monster, get points. Complete level, get happy music. Win game, feel satisfied. It's a very simple and primitive part of who we are. We react the same way to everything, from food to sex, in education and even in our relationship with our parents, who, if they are good parents, scold bad behaviour and reward good.

"[This is what] we expected to be the number one thing," Hilgard says, "Thinking that what makes Diablo so addictive is the small chance of getting treasure for every monster you kill." Diablo is a video game, produced by the same people as World of Warcraft. Psychologists call this PRE, or Partial Reinforcement Effect, in which the reward is only offered randomly, some of the time, such as in gambling. This leaves gamers hoping that just round the corner lies the suit of armour, gold, or some other reward they've been waiting for.

That "reward" plays a part in the psychology of addiction is certain: Plenty of gamers will be familiar with the phrase "just ten more minutes". But Hilgard and his researchers discovered other results from the survey, things they did not expect. First of all, a lot of people said they felt they were "duty bound" to go online, that "people were relying on them." Online games, like World of Warcraft or Eve Online, feature massive worlds. So massive that you're not very strong by yourself, and people aren't too strong without you. "All for one and one for all" counts double if you're a gamer.

So most people join guilds — in-games factions — in order to achieve more within their virtual life. But with that benefit comes a cost: social responsibility. Often, you need to play every day and often it means several hours per day. If you don't play, there are people (granted, somewhere else in the world) who will think badly of you. They'll slander you on the forums and blacklist you from future raids. And, anyway, people like to feel included, so aside from the threat of social gaming censure most people enjoy being part of a group.

You get benefits, such as better rewards and faster in-game advancement, but you inevitably have to give back to the community which has helped you. In World of Warcraft, "raids," in which groups of players dive into a monster-invested cavern for rewards, can take a couple of hours and require quite a bit of organization, and most take place with upward of five people, and at a prearranged time. In his confessional autobiography Unplugged, video-game addict Ryan Van Cleave remembers countless missed dinners and social occasions he instead spent "plugged in" to Warcraft conducting raids. He wasn't just enjoying himself: He had promises to keep.

Social obligation itself can't really be a true addiction; it's just guilt. Anyone with a shred of conscience would feel bad leaving a team to fend for themselves if you'd made a promise to them. And it is just that, guilt, which can tie people into a lifetime of gaming. Not just guilt about your community or your guild, but for your character, too. Ryan devotes a few paragraphs to remember his Warcraft characters, who he loved and nurtured. Unfortunately, in exclusion of his real children, whom he neglected.

The other factor, in fact the largest reported factor found in the study, was escapism. Many people in the study reported that they enjoyed games because games took them out of the real world. These same people were the most likely to develop addiction-like symptoms. Why be a landscape architect when you could be an invincible mage? Or, feeling doomed to unpopularity in real-life, why not join a guild online? This isn't the first study to find the relationship between video games and escapism: A study in 2009 found 41 percent of its participants said they played to escape the real world.

In a way, video games are the spiritual successors to fantasy literature. Like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, or Shizuku in Studio Ghibli's Whispers of the Heart, people are escaping from their humdrum lives into a world of invented magic and wonder. This is why games like World of Warcraft are a gamers' "drug of choice": they span massive worlds, across continents and with thousands of quests to join. If someone has a powerful imagination, the real world doesn't really cut it anymore.

The difference is, video games are personalized and meticulously tested experiences which, unlike books, are constantly tinkered with by their manufacturers to be as "sticky" — that is to say, addictive — as possible.

Hyperactive imaginations aside, there are a number of people with more serious conditions that might look to video games to escape from real problems. People with depression can find a temporary high in these virtual wonderlands. In one of the worst cases in video game addiction, a Korean couple suffering from depression played Prius, a game in which you raise a child, until their real baby daughter died from starvation.

True to stereotypes, those with social phobias, or just poor social skills in general, are more likely to turn to gaming. Not only do games offer them that elusive social affirmation — NPCs, or non-playable characters, telling you how wonderful you are, how brave and so on — but there is the opportunity with online games to speak with real people, who share your hobby and are likely to be less judgmental than the people they know in real life.

Social stigma toward video games and the nagging knowledge that you're neglecting your responsibilities lead people deeper down the rabbit hole. Hilgard calls these "bad coping strategies": he says, "just like refreshing my browser tabs because I'm nervous and want to keep my mind off of something, gamers are often playing to forget their real-life problems." The problem is: The problems get worse, and so the pull to gaming gets even stronger. It's a vicious, downward facing, spiral.

Van Cleave's Unplugged is a study in this cycle of destruction, 300 pages of twisting every way he could to escape how hard life had become for him. And it only got worse. At every checkpoint in his life he could for many hours a day escape to a world in which he wasn't overweight, underemployed, disliked and disenfranchised, but instead a legend.

There's a lot more work to be done before we truly understand this stuff. Indeed, the science of addiction itself is still hopelessly infantile. In the meantime, gaming addicts are more or less on their own, and have to fight their addiction by figuring out what makes the real world so unappealing when compared the bright lights of the computer screen. And the rest of us have to keep an eye on games manufacturers stepping over the line from entertainment to exploitation.

As seen in The Week ;-)
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The military is weaponizing video games

The Xbox Kinect can do a lot more than recognize your dance moves. According to Eugene K. Chow in The Week, the military has long been an object of the video game industry's fascination.

Titles like Call of Duty slavishly pore over the details of real-life weapons, technology, and terrain to create virtual battlefields for their users to wage war on. But in a case of reality mimicking art, the military has started to turn to the gaming industry for help — and not just for training, as one would expect, but for technology itself.

In the arms race for a better user experience, the $66 billion video game industry has become so advanced that in some areas it has outpaced the military. The gaming industry's state-of-the-art controllers, high-tech sensors, and processors have been co-opted, even weaponized, by the Pentagon.

Here, a few examples:

How Xbox Kinect can guard a border

In addition to interpreting dance moves and imaginary swings of a light saber, Xbox Kinect sensors are helping to guard the last remaining front of the Cold War, the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that divides North and South Korea.

After a series of high-profile border mishaps, including a defecting soldier from the North who simply waltzed through the heavily fenced, mine-strewn, 2.5-mile-wide DMZ and knocked on a guard post, the South Korean military turned to the developer of the Xbox Kinect sensor for help.

While existing sensors along the DMZ were effective, they had difficulty distinguishing between animals and humans, resulting in frequent false alerts. Now thanks to Ko Jae-Kwan, who developed Microsoft's Kinect sensors that allow users to control games using their body movements, the DMZ's newest sensors are able to separate human and animal movement.

"For its price, the device is very accurate and effective in covering vulnerable areas," Ko said.

Planned upgrades include sensors capable of reading biometrics like heart rate and body temperature, features already included in Microsoft's Xbox One, which was released last year.

To succeed in the retail industry, video game makers must offer highly advanced technologies at affordable prices, which is partly why they are so attractive to the military.

In 2009, the Pentagon purchased thousands of PlayStation 3s to bolster its supercomputer clusters. According to Defense Department acquisition officers, the PlayStation's processor offered comparable performance to the world's most advanced chips but at one-tenth the price, making it the most viable option.

Using a Wii to disable a bomb

Meanwhile on the more hands-on side, several drone manufacturers have adapted video game controllers and interfaces to pilot drones as their designs have proven to be the best available.

It's no coincidence that Raytheon's Universal Control System, the complex command station that allows drone operators to fly, track targets, and launch death-dealing Hellfire missiles from thousands of miles away, closely resembles a hardcore gamer's ultimate setup.

In an effort to reduce accidents, Raytheon hired game developers to redesign drone "cockpits" by borrowing technology from the gaming industry including wrap-around wide-screen monitors, Xbox-based processors, and an array of familiar joysticks, switches, and thumb controls.

"Gaming companies have spent millions to develop user-friendly graphic interfaces, so why not put them to work on UAVs?" explained Mark Bigham, business development director for Raytheon's tactical intelligence systems. "The video-game industry always will outspend the military on improving human-computer interaction."

That is exactly why engineers modified a Nintendo WiiMote to control the Packbot, a bomb disposal drone used by the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq, after they realized the existing "joypad" interface monopolized the user's attention.

"Our tests show 90 percent of the operator's workload goes into driving the robot rather than keeping an eye on the sensor data," said David Bruemmer, a U.S. Department of Energy engineer who helped design the modified controller.

With the Wiimote, troops are able to control the robots more instinctively as the new control directly translates the movements of the hand into the movements of the robot, Bruemmer added.

Other battle-tested controllers include the widely used Xbox 360's, which Lockheed Martin modified by removing the logo to help British troops fly UAVs. The U.S. Army has also been spotted using the same controller for ground-based drones.

How virtual reality can alleviate PTSD

Beyond controllers, video games themselves have become effective tools to help veterans struggling with PTSD or even recover from severe burns. Where powerful drugs and other therapeutic techniques have failed, video games have proven enormously effective.

In an experimental treatment, soldiers recovering from severe burns were given virtual reality goggles to play Snow World, a specially designed immersive game that kept their minds off the excruciating pain of having their wounds cleaned or skin stretched.

"Sometimes patients are crying or screaming or begging for you to stop or pleading to God for mercy," said clinical nurse specialist Morrow. "[Snow World] really changes the nature of what we do."

Patients reported that they felt less pain when playing the game, required less pain medication, and had a greater range of motion in their burned limbs as their muscles were more relaxed.

The game is fairly simple, consisting of a 3D environment where players travel along a snowy path and throw snowballs at non-moving targets. The virtual reality headsets keep patients from seeing what's happening to their bodies and the game keeps their mind focused on playing the game rather than the pain.

Other specially-designed virtual reality games like Beyond the Front as well as mobile apps are helping to treat and diagnose PTSD. A virtual first-person shooting game offers vets a chance to return to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, but in safe way that allows patients to conquer their past traumas and habituate themselves to experiences of fear.

On the less therapeutic side of shoot-em-ups, the Pentagon uses America's Army, a military-style shooting game, as a subtle recruitment tool. And, taking its cues from the Pentagon, China's People's Liberation Army released the not-so-subtle first person shooter Glorious Mission, which inundates players with fiery nationalistic propaganda as they slog through boot camp and ultimately face off against America in a bloody showdown.

As the military is proving, video games are no longer child's play.

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Sex toys get social

And they're not a total waste of time... According to John Aziz of The Idea Factory, a new generation of sex toys is here.

Manipulatable by the actions of a far-away internet partner, these sex toys — called teledildonics — are internet-enabled devices that let long-distance partners feel each other in real-time. For men, there are vagina-shaped sex toys, and for women, penis-shaped ones. What one partner does is picked up by sensors in the toy, sent over the internet, and felt by the other partner, and vice versa. The toys can also sync up to the action in adult films, like the now-defunct RealTouch.

It’s easy to condemn such things as weird or bizarre.

And I’d say that’s for good reason: Hooking up via vibrating plastic accessories attached to an internet-connected computer is clearly not the most obvious way for two people to be intimate. It is rather like a Rube Goldberg machine: an extremely complicated solution to a simple problem. Why go to such trouble to create virtual sexual experiences when real-world sex is possible without all the technology getting in the way?

But as jarring as they may seem, these technologies may actually be useful for things outside of the domain of internet fetishism. They are a very primitive attempt to solve an extremely important problem in computing — how do you create convincing physical sensations in virtual environments?

Today, we have relatively underdeveloped virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift that immerse viewers in 360-degree digital environments where they can move their head to look up, down, and around. But integrating elements of reality beyond audio to create a fuller virtual reality experience presents difficult engineering challenges. Surround sound is possible, but the other senses — taste, smell, and touch — are much harder to fulfill.

Internet-connected sex toys are a tentative first step toward physical feedback in virtual reality, just as (say) Nintendo’s Virtual Boy was a first step toward the impressive virtual reality visuals possible with the Oculus Rift.

If the initial application (internet sex), seems weird, that’s probably just human nature. Humans like experimenting with sex so it shouldn't be too surprising that porn has been a big driver of technology adoption. The adult film industry has been at the forefront of technology for years, at least since it picked VHS over Betamax. Technological innovations pioneered by the porn industry include online payment systems, streaming video, video chat, and DVD and HD video formats.

The same logic probably applies to sex with robots. In creating convincing human-like robots, it seems inevitable that researchers will experiment with making robots sexually convincing, as well as capable of various human tasks such as lifting heavy objects, performing manual labor, performing housework, fighting in war zones, etc. Designing robots that are sexually attractive and sexually convincing will hold important lessons for designing robots to interact with humans in other ways.

As seen in The Week ;-)
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The online cookie has turned stale: Here's what advertisers are cooking up to replace it

Sorry, you're still being tracked. According to Robert W. Gehl in The Week, the $10 billion online advertising industry is in a state of crisis. That is, if we are to believe "Privacy and Tracking in a Post-Cookie World," a recent report from the advertising trade group Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

As this IAB report details, the online marketing industry requires accurate, pervasive monitoring of our online habits. The data that results from this monitoring is turned into profiles, and these profiles get sold to advertisers in a hyperspeed auction that takes place in the milliseconds before your browser loads the next webpage. This practice of monitoring our habits, profiling us, and selling our eyes to the highest bidder is called Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA).

In order to work, however, OBA relies largely on a two-decade-old technology: The cookie, a small text file with a unique ID that is downloaded to your browser when you visit many websites. But just like any cookie would be after 20 years, the HTTP cookie is now stale.

The cookie, crumbled

Cookies are failing because internet users are increasingly blocking them. In fact, as you read this, many of you might have your browsers set to block third-party cookies, or you might be using privacy add-ons like Self-Destructing Cookies. You're not alone; as the IAB report notes, privacy-conscious internet users are now "churning" cookies by regularly deleting them, thus making it impossible to track these users over time.

Moreover, because cookies aren't persistent across browsers or devices, they don't allow marketers to track you as you browse the web first on a laptop, then on your phone, then on your Playstation. At best, multi-device browsing results in fragmented profiles, hardly the data gold mine the industry wants.

Finally, in 2011, the European Union and U.S. government began cracking down on cookies due to privacy concerns. The IAB and other trade groups consistently fight such regulation, but regulator tolerance of cookies has waned.

And when the cookie crumbles, the OBA industry does too. Without reliable data culled from constantly monitoring our online habits, the custom profiles data brokers make about us are far less valuable to advertisers.

After cookies: User IDs and security desks?

However, let's not celebrate the end of the cookie too soon. If the IAB report is any indication of where the online marketing industry wants to take the internet, I think we're going to be longing for the days when a visit to a site like Dictionary.com resulted in 159 cookies downloaded onto our computers.

Why? Because, in a move resulting either from clumsiness or sheer hubris, the marketers who wrote the IAB report have tipped their hands about what they want the internet to look like in the post-cookie world.

To explain the need for new tracking technologies, they use an analogy of security desks:

Imagine you work in a building with a security desk on each floor. Think how frustrating it would be if every time you walked into the building or went to a different floor you had to provide your name, company, job title, and ID so security personnel could make sure you’re allowed to proceed. You would have to provide all of this information every time you left the building or went to another floor — even if you just went for a quick coffee break, or walked a guest to the elevator. To circumvent headaches such as these, security badges were invented. Now every time you enter your building or change floors you are able to swipe your badge at the security desk and that swipe provides information to quickly remind the system of all of your details and automatically gives you permission to proceed. Additionally, your security badge contains information about you that can only be read by the security desks in your building, [sic] it would not work if you swiped it anywhere else. [Privacy and Tracking in a Post-Cookie World]

As the report explains, cookies are like security badges, but badges that are now obsolete; they don't identify you consistently enough. The report authors suggest new ones by expanding the use of "advertising IDs," cloud-based ID systems, or statistical identification of users (for an example of how this last might work, see this EFF project).

These plans would require a centralized service to assign us unique online IDs on our devices. The report outlines a few different approaches: A cloud-based one would have us sign into an ID service and use the unique ID it gives us to connect to publishers. In a sense, this is happening with Facebook Connect (although Twitter's implementation of OAuth competes with Facebook to be an internet ID system), but in the IAB's ideal scenario, we'd pick just one service to be our online ID. The report also indicates a solution through your internet service provider: Every time you log on to the internet through Comcast or Verizon, for example, you'd be assigned a unique ID. Advertising IDs, like those used in Android and iPhones, would provide device-level identification; this would be far less centralized, but it would still be more concentrated than the free-for-all cookie system.

But I want to set aside the technical details of these ideas and instead focus on what the practical effects would be. Let's take the IAB's unfortunate analogy of the internet as a highly secured building to it's logical conclusion. (Seriously: The internet as a series of security desks? They wrote this report after Snowden's NSA leaks?)

1. We all work and live in the same building; call it "Les Interwebs." It used to be that you had to explain to the guards who you are every time you left and came back into the building, but the IAB has fixed this for us. Now you have an IAB-issued internet ID card you can use to get into Les Interwebs, and the guards greet you by name with a cheerful grin. (The IAB report acknowledges that post-cookie tracking technology will require "an authentication mechanism" — in other words, a persistent ID you use to identify yourself online.)

2. We each have our own special room in that building. The guards know when you're in your room and when you're not.

3. While you're in your special room, highly trained social scientists watch your every move, monitor what you read and watch, pore through your financial records, consult with your doctor about your health, study your sexual preferences, map your social networks, and divide you up into myriad categories. (This detailed monitoring is, of course, the dream that animates online behavioral advertising).

4. As a result, in your room, you only see what you want to see — or rather, you only see what marketers believe you want to see. You like "technology" and "sports?" That's all you see. You like liberal politics? You will only confront views that confirm your own. Don't worry about the opinions of others; you won't hear about them — except in sensational headlines. (This is what the IAB would call "personalization," and what others might call a "filter bubble.")

Of course, much of this is already reality, but if we take the IAB report at face value, the way in which this vision of the internet is currently being implemented is inefficient and clumsy. Cookies helped get us to an internet that tracked us, but now the time has come for even more precise and powerful tracking technologies.

The internet can certainly be a building with security desks on every floor. If you want personalized services everywhere you go — where "personalization" means you get what someone else says you want — then the IAB is your guide to the future of the internet. If you like to be watched as you lust, love, and live, if you like to give the marketing industry such infopower, please do help the IAB figure out the future of tracking after the cookie.

On the internet, no one should know you're not a dog

However, what if we take seriously other metaphors for the internet? For example, since so much of the IAB's work is to fix us as specific, identifiable people, perhaps we need to turn to the old metaphor of the internet as a place where, as the famous New Yorker cartoon put it, "no one knows you're a dog."

I would rather see an internet where you can be a dog one minute, a cat the next, a man the next, a woman the next. Where you can do things without a massive, highly sophisticated industry studying your every move. Where you can explore and learn based on whim and serendipity rather than the dictates of marketing (or, of course, government, but that's for another essay). Where when you can put your name on things one minute and be anonymous the next.

In other words, let's have a post-cookie internet without tracking. The IAB can keep their security desks.

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Can Facebook give free Internet access to the world?

Facebook Initiative
Source: BestComputerScienceDegrees.com

Dating: Is the Web getting in the way of love?

"Is technology ruining your relationships?" asked Jess Carbino in HuffingtonPost.com. "Honestly? Yes," I thought. Apparently a study by my favorite research group, the Pew Research Center, has found that gadgets have “a pronounced effect” on dating and relationships. "Surprise, surprise" I thought. Here's the latest as seen in my favorite magazine The Week.

Almost one fifth of young people say they have argued with partners about how much time they spend online, compared with just 8 percent of older adults. Yet many young adults also find that technology provides “a forum to resolve conflicts.” Having “grown up revealing more about themselves in an online forum,” Millennials feel more at home with the medium.

But even some grown-up couples say tech can improve their relationships, said Sharon Gaudin in ComputerWorld.com. Overall, about 27 percent of the people surveyed said technology had an impact on their relationships, with most rating the impact as positive. “It gives people the ability to communicate in more and different ways,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group. “Text messages make it easy to toss out those quick ‘I’m thinking about you’’’ or “‘I’m still mad about last night’ messages.’’ One out of four couples said they felt closer to their partner because of texts or online messages, and 9 percent have resolved disputes online or by text message when they were having trouble discussing it in person.

Certainly, “hyperconnectivity is a double-edged sword,” said Eliana Dockterman in Time.com. “Young couples are operating in a competitive, geographically diffuse job market” that can separate them by continents. At first glance, that might make our connectedness seem like a good thing. But researchers have found that “the positive aspects of long-distance all seem to be based on how little couples see one another.” All that Skyping could just be “sabotaging your long-term relationship.” So as socializing online becomes easier, “consider the value of space.”

For singles, though, the web has been a real boon, said Julia Wood in CNBC.com. “With so many fish in the sea, more singles are heading online to find their soul mate.” A survey by Match.com found that 31 percent of respondents said they met their last date online, compared with 33 percent who met dates through friends and or at work. That doesn’t mean online dating is without its own challenges: There are now so many dating sites and apps that “choosing one is almost as difficult as finding someone who matches your standards.”

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SIY: The mainstreaming of mindfulness

Stressed-out Americans from war veterans to Google workers are embracing meditation. Does it really work? My answer is YES. Thank goodness mindfulness is going mainstream. Here's a fabulous update from The Week.

Why is mindfulness so popular?

It appeals to people seeking an antidote to life in work-obsessed, tech-saturated, frantically busy Western culture. There is growing scientific evidence that mindfulness meditation has genuine health benefits—and can even alter the structure of the brain, so the technique is drawing some unlikely devotees. Pentagon leaders are experimenting with mindfulness to make soldiers more resilient, while General Mills has installed a meditation room in every building of its Minneapolis campus. Even tech-obsessed Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are using it as a way to unplug from their hyperconnected lives. “Meditation always had bad branding for this culture,” says Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter. “But to me, it’s a way to think more clearly and to not feel so swept up.”

What is mindfulness, exactly?
It’s a meditation practice central to the Buddha’s teachings, which has now been adapted by Western teachers into a secular self-help technique. One of the pioneers in the field is Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-educated molecular biologist who began teaching mindfulness in the 1970s to people suffering from chronic pain and disease. The core of mindfulness is quieting the mind’s constant chattering—thoughts, anxieties, and regrets. Practitioners are taught to keep their attention focused on whatever they’re doing at the present moment, whether it’s eating, exercising, or even working. The most basic mindfulness practice is sitting meditation: You sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus your awareness on your breath and other bodily sensations. When thoughts come, you gently let them go without judgment and return to the focus on the breath. Over time, this practice helps people connect with a deeper, calmer part of themselves, and retrain their brains not to get stuck in pointless, neurotic ruminations about the past and future that leave them constantly stressed, anxious, or depressed.

Does it work?
Scientific research has shown that mindfulness appears to make people both happier and healthier. Regular meditation can lower a person’s blood pressure and their levels of cortisol, a stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland and closely associated with anxiety. Meditation can also increase the body’s immune response, improve a person’s emotional stability and sleep quality, and even enhance creativity. When combining mindfulness with traditional forms of cognitive behavioral therapy, patients in one study saw a 10 to 20 percent improvement in the mild symptoms of their depression—the same progress produced by antidepressants. Other studies have found that up to 80 percent of trauma survivors and veterans with PTSD see a significant reduction in troubling symptoms. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is also teaching mindfulness as a form of treatment for patients with substance abuse problems.

Why does it work?
MRI scans have shown that mindfulness can alter meditators’ brain waves—and even cause lasting changes to the physical structure of their brains (see below). Meditation reduces electrical activity and blood flow in the amygdala, a brain structure involved in strong, primal emotions such as fear and anxiety, while boosting activity regions responsible for planning, decision-making, and empathy. These findings have helped attract the more skeptical-minded. “There is a swath of our culture who is not going to listen to someone in monk’s robes,” says Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, “but they are paying attention to scientific evidence.”

Who are these converted skeptics?
Ironically enough, Silicon Valley’s tech geeks are leading the way. “It seems counterintuitive, since technology is perhaps the biggest driver of mindlessness and distraction,” says Ann Mack, a director at marketing communications brand JWT Worldwide. Google now has an in-house mindfulness program called SIY “Search Inside Yourself,” and the company has even installed a labyrinth at its Mountain View complex so employees can practice walking meditation. Tech leaders flock annually to the Wisdom 2.0 conference, and there are now countless smartphone apps devoted to the subject. But these developments have led to a growing concern that mindfulness is being co-opted and corrupted.

Why is that?
Long-term adherents of mindfulness worry that what is fundamentally a spiritual practice is being appropriated by new age entrepreneurs seeking to profit off it. Others are concerned that Fortune 500 executives are pushing meditation so that overworked employees can be even more productive without melting down. But Westerners clearly need some sort of strategy to cope with a world now filled with the inescapable distractions of technology. The average American now consumes 63 gigabytes of content, or more than 150,000 words, over 13.6 hours of media use every single day—and all indications are that those numbers will keep climbing. For Janice Marturano, founder of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, mindfulness is not just a way of coping with the deluge of input; it’s a way of confronting the modern world head-on. “There is no life-work balance,” says Marturano. “We have one life. What’s most important is that you be awake for it.”

Rewiring the brain
Until recently, neurologists believed that a person’s brain stopped physically developing when they were 25 to 35 years old. From that point onward, the hardware was set. But a growing body of research points to the possibility of lifelong “neuroplasticity”—the ability of the brain to adapt to new input—and a 2011 Massachusetts General Hospital study found that those who meditate regularly for as little as eight weeks changed the very structure of their brains. MRI scans showed that by meditating daily for an average of 27 minutes, participants increased the density of the gray matter (which holds most of our brain cells) in an area that is essential for focus, memory, and compassion. Previous research had already shown that monks who had spent more than 10,000 hours in meditation had extraordinary growth and activity in this part of the brain. But it’s now clear that even relative beginners at mindfulness can quickly rewire their brains in a positive way.

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Amazon vs. Netflix: The Fight of the Century

Amazon vs Netflix
Source: Business-Management-Degree.net

Don't Be Fooled: 2014's Top April Fools' Day Tech Jokes

As reported by Stephanie Mlot of PC Magazine, from Google and Hulu to HTC and Uber, check out the roundup of some of the day's best practical jokes.

The tech industry often produces what seem like farcical products, but turn out to be the next big thing. But on April 1, even the most enlightened must take the news with a grain of salt.

Don't be fooled this year. Google kicked things off early with a search for a Pokémon Master to officially join the company. That wasn't the only joke from the search giant. Check out a few more below, as well as PCMag's favorite April Fools' pranks from the past.

Selfiebot: Stop digging in your purse for your phone when the perfect selfie opportunity arises. Instead, reserve a Selfiebot—a photo-taking drone that follows you around, "always watching … for life's most precious moment."

Gmail Shelfies: Celebrate Gmail's 10th anniversary with custom selfie themes. Ditch the typical landscapes, starry skies, and close-up flower shots for a selfie of you and your pet hedgehog. Even better: Your family, friends, and that guy you've been stalking can also set your Shelfie (SHareable sELFIE) as their Gmail theme, reading and writing emails while staring at your face in the background.

Google's "The Magic Hand": Google Japan has developed a mechanical hand that makes operating touch-screen devices more accurate and convenient—via an arcade-game joystick.

YouTube viral video trends: YouTube unveils its plans for 2014's viral video trends, including Clocking, Butter Fails, the Glub Glub water dance, and baby shaming. Later this year, the video sharing site will roll out cake bumping, wolf-mask tee-ball, and the Harlem Shake—again. If you think you've got a great YouTube meme idea, tweet it now with the hashtag #newtrends.

Google+ Auto Awesome: Visiting the Grand Canyon on a nice family vacation when, what's that? David Hasselhoff photobombs you! Perk up any photo with Google+'s new celebrity photobomb feature, rolling out initially with support from The Hoff.

Emojify the Web: Can a word smile? Can it roll its eyes? That's the aim of Google Translate support for emoji. Using algorithms, the app can interpret the content and tone of words, and boils them down to a single, meaningful symbol.

Total Temperature Control by Nest: Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Nest CEO Tony Fadell team up to allow airline passengers to control their own climate. Want the warmth of a tropical paradise on your flight to Boston? Select "Cancun Afternoon," and don't forget the sunscreen. Or try "Chicago Polar Vortex" for that freezing-wind-in-your-face feeling.

SwiftKey Flow Hard: SwiftKey is expanding its easy-flow typing techniques from your touch-screen phone to your traditional PC keyboard. Flow Hard brings SwiftKey's predictive technology to your physical keyboard.

Hulu Spin-Off Season: TV streaming site Hulu is launching Spin-Off Season, which brings some of your favorite goofy sidekicks and ensemble characters to the forefront. Original content includes Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Sergeant Terry Jeffords back on the streets, a cooking show with Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and childrens' Spanish lessons with Community's Señor Chang.

WazeDates: Having no luck with online dating sites? Try traffic crowdsourcing app Waze's new feature, WazeDates. Just turn on the mobile setting, fill out your preferences, and wait for mobile alerts when single Wazers are driving nearby.

HouzzPrintz 3D Printer: Forget the hassle of shipping costs and wait times. HouzzPrintz 3D printer allows you to reproduce anything you see on the site with your own printer—about the size of a small airstream trailer.

HTC Gluuv: Accessorize your new HTC One (M8) with the all-in-one HTC Gluuv, a silver-and-black mitt that works seamlessly with the smartphone to "unleash your imagination and communicate in ways you've always wanted." Give a physical thumbs-up to "like" a Facebook post or pound your fist to capture a beautiful sunset with the Gluuv's 87.2-megapixel camera.

Toshiba DiGit: The first all-in-one wearable, Toshiba's DiGit gloves offer the functionality of a smartphone, DSLR camera, media streaming box, gaming console, home theater system, MP3 player, and ultrasound machine. The pair also comes fully loaded with 64GB of storage and 1TB cloud storage, plus 4G wireless, and 12 hours of battery life.

Uber Second Avenue Subway: New York City commuters can hop on the "U line" today, riding the length of Second Avenue for only $2.50. (The April Fools' Day promotion actually allows riders to catch a cab up and down Second Avenue, between 128th and Houston streets, for a discounted price.)

Apple Acquires iFixit: The industry leader in repair guides, iFixit, has been acquired by Apple for an undisclosed amount that iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens said "we couldn't refuse." As part of the deal, Cupertino will produce the most replaceable electronic devices on the market.

FreshDirect Eagle-Caught Salmon: It's biked in daily from the banks of the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY. And 41 percent off!

For videos and more, check out this article on PC Magazine!

NetLingo was voted as a "Top 100 Web Site" two years in a row by PC Magazine. They said NetLingo is "One of the 100 Best Web Sites, it is a living dictionary devoted to the often cryptic and comedic vocabulary of the Internet, which is evolving at record speed." -

And BTW they missed this one at ONTRAPORT: The fusion of software and wine ;-)

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