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Interesting snippets from around the globe


Want a human to spell-check your emails?

A new service called eAngel brings human autocorrect to your Gmail outbox for just $US5 a month.

eAngel integrates by means of a Chrome extension which adds a second ‘send with eAngel’ option to your Gmail compose window. From there, your email goes off to a real, live human who will check your spelling, grammar and punctuation in English, French, German, Spanish or Hebrew. Once done, eAngel sends your email to the recipient as you, with a corrected copy back to you.

This is probably a pretty useful service if you're sending an email that isn't in your native language, to avoid embarrassing translation mistakes.

However, even though they promise complete privacy and security, I probably wouldn't use this for sensitive email. Things like travel reservations or quick correspondence, sure. It's cheaper than a translator but more reliable than an automated option like Google translate.

(Feb ’15)


Your PC in a mouse

APolish software and hardware developer has created a prototype computer which is entirely housed within a mouse.

Dubbed the “Mouse Box”, it works like a conventional mouse, but contains a processor, flash storage, an HDMI connection, and Wi-Fi connectivity. It is connected to a monitor via the HDMI interface and connects to an Internet connection through standard Wi-Fi.

(Feb ’15)


Apple reports the biggest profit in history

US tech giant Apple has reported the biggest quarterly profit ever made by a public company - $US18billion, net profit. That tops the $15.9billion made by ExxonMobil in the second quarter of 2012, according to Standard and Poor's.

Record sales of iPhones were behind the surge in profits.

Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones in the three months to 27 December, with sales of its smartphones in China doubling.

Meanwhile, about 1300km north of Cupertino, California in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft’s profits fell more than 10.6% in the corresponding three months to $US5.86billion.

The Microsoft results included a $243m charge for reorganising the firm partly due to purchase of Nokia's phone business, which it bought in September 2013.

Apple is currently sitting on a cash pile of $US178 billion ($NZ233 billion) which is more than enough to buy all but the largest 17 companies in the S&P 500. At last count, it’s cash stash is also greater than the cash reserves of many countries including Turkey, Malaysia, Poland, Canada and the United Kingdom.

(Feb ’15)


…and the app economy is bigger than Hollywood

From another press release from Apple earlier this year (9 January 2015) tech business analyst Horace Deidu, Asymco points out, "The iOS App Store distributed $US10 billion to developers in 2014, which is just about as much as Hollywood earned off U.S. box office revenues the same year."

That means the American app industry is poised to eclipse the American film industry. Additionally, Apple says its App Store has created 627,000 jobs, which Deidu contrasts with the approximately 374,000 jobs Hollywood creates.

(Feb ’15)


Airpnp – when you gotta go

When you need to tinkle on your travels, it can be a challenge to remain calm. Enter Airpnp, a mobile app that will direct you to the nearest loo.

Not unlike Airbnb, the accommodation app, with Airpnp you enter your location on a map and instantly find those businesses and residents in the area that have a restroom just for you.

Some are free (like those in a local cafe or store, for example), while others are in private homes that charge a fee. Listings give photos, descriptions, hours of service and the cost. Users can even enter reviews about the amenities they’ve used.

Check out the ad for a WC in Manhattan which will meet your requirements for $US3 a pop (or is that $3 a poop?), at the second link below.

We had a look to see if there were any listings in Auckland or Wellington and as yet, none. It appears the biggest uptake so far has been in Manhattan and Antwerp.

The company’s tagline is "pee all you can pee with Airpnp." Clever.

(Feb ’15)


One wrong pilot keystroke

The difference between a general alert and a hijacking emergency is one wrong pilot keystroke.

In mid-December, a Vietnam Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Hanoi when the cabin started to depressurise and oxygen masks dropped.But while alerting Noi Bai airport staff in Hanoi, the pilot incorrectly activated the hijacking alarm instead of the general emergency warning.

The codes are the same apart from one digit, with 7500 alerting ground crews to “unlawful interference” while 7700 means a general emergency.

The mistake sent ground staff into a panic, as they prepared for a hijacking scenario in the belief someone had forced their way into the cockpit.

The error corrected about three minutes later and the Airbus A321-200 landed safely without injury to the 140 people on board.

(Feb ’15)


2015 gets a leap second

On June 30 this year, the day will last a tad longer — one second longer, to be precise — as a leap second will be added to clocks worldwide as decreed by scientists and officials at the International Earth Rotation Service based in France.

 The time UTC will go from 23:59:59 to 23:59:60 in order to cope with Earth's rotation slowing down a bit.

The last time a leap second was added, in 2012, a number of websites - Mozilla, Reddit, Foursquare, Yelp, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon all reported crashes and there were problems with the Linux operating system and programmes written in Java.

The first leap second was added in 1972, and it will be the 26th time it has been added to clocks in history. It means the rotation of the Earth will have slowed 26 seconds compared to the time measured on atomic clocks.

Leap seconds are rarer these days than they were when the practice of adding seconds first began.

From 1972 to 1979, at least one second was added every year. Leap seconds were added six times throughout the 1980s. But there will only have been four leap seconds added since 1999.

So, what do you intend to do during that extra second added to that day? Well, you may want to check your systems.

(Feb ’15)

Back to top


Google? No sweat.

The search giant has been granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a "fragrance emission device" that would sense when you have B.O. and steer you away from any friends who might be nearby at the time.

According to the patent, the odour-sensing gizmo which “may detect a rise in sweat levels, an increase in body odor or body temperature, or any other parameter that may indicate the user is exercising or otherwise exerting themselves.”

Once the activity module detected you were starting to get whiffy, it would shoot out its neutraliser. Of course, you could easily override the system if you didn't want to get blasted with, presumably, Eau de Google.

But, the strangest part of the "fragrance emission device" has to do with the way it would connect to your social-media channels and warn you when friends were around and you weren't smelling your freshest. It would then provide an alternative route you could take to avoid your bumping into your mates until you got to a shower. 

According to the report in Quartz, the patent appears to be one of the nearly 24,500 patents which Google acquired with the acquisition of Motorola Mobility ion 2011.

We are guessing this is a companion wearable device to all the fitness trackers being launched.

World domination is getting closer.

(Feb ’15)


The password mistakes you make

By now, you probably think you know the drill when it comes to passwords - avoid pet's names, mix up letters, change your password regularly, blah blah blah. You might think you’re being clever, but according to State of the Net, the tricks we're using to make our passwords strong these days can actually make us more susceptible to hacks.

State of the Net points out what is pretty much common knowledge these days - hackers use software to crack your passwords, and the longer the password, the harder it is for them to crack. But a long password does not a secure password make. Turns out there are common patterns that people use that end up making passwords more obvious. Here are three of them:

One upper case, then 5 lower case, then 2 digits, e.g. Meagan84

One upper case, then 6 lower case, then 2 digits, e.g. Kristen82

One upper case, then 3 lower case, then 4 digits, e.g. Elle2015

It doesn't stop there. If you're doing any of the following, you may want to rethink how you're picking your passwords:

Starting with an upper case letter followed by lower case letters

When a password isn't long enough, adding a letter or two to the base word

Putting digits, especially two or four of them, before or after the letters

When a special character is required, using "!" and putting it at the end

Not using two special characters in the same password

So, what do you do?

State of the Net suggests avoiding relying on password checkers, because they're often just flat wrong on the strength of your passwords. Avoid beginning a password with a capitalized letter, creating an acronym and using the first word of each sentence as your password. Avoid natural words and phrases, don't repeat the same special characters, and don't put numbers next to each other.

Try this - Jgha898939yhgbjkba-fq345;13no[UJ[3B523VBQWU88ng(%,2

Not sure it is memorable, though.

(Feb ’15)


2015 = 11111011111, a palindrome

2015 is the last binary palindrome year we'll have until 2047.

Last year was nothing to get excited about - 11111011110 - that's 2014 in binary. This year though, behold the beauty of 2015’s symmetry:


How elegant, and it reads the same way forwards and backwards. That’s a palindrome.

If you need a refresher on how binary numbers work, each digit represents a power of 2. With 11 digits (the number of “bits” needed to represent numbers above 1024), the numbers for each place are as shown in the diagram above.

Add them all together (except for the 32 in the middle, which is set to 0) and you get 2015.

There will not be another year this symmetrical until 2047, when we hit 11111111111 (which is nice, but a little boring with all that repetition). After that, we go to 12 bits (100000000000, or 2048), hit another symmetrical year in 2049 (100000000001), and then have to wait another 96 years for the next one (100001100001, or 2145).

(Feb ’15)


Guard your chips – there’s an app for that

McDonald’s Canada has unveiled an app to guard your french fries against intruders in the event that you need to leave them unattended for a brief period of time.

We all know how it works. You put down the tray to go back to the counter to get more ketchup or another serviette and your meal-mates just start helping themselves. Now, McDonalds has got your back with the Fry Defender.

It’s a new feature in its iOS and Android apps that turns your phone into a motion sensor (presumably via the camera and light sensors integrated in the hardware). You activate the defender, set it by your food, and if someone reaches for it - BUSTED! An alarm goes off.

As the website says, “The only thing better than my fries, are your fries.”

It’s a fun promotion, and actually a pretty clever bit of interaction design hacking. But, if you decide you can’t trust them enough to leave me with your french fries, why would you ever be so bold as to leave them with your phone?

You can download the app at the link.

(Nov ’14)


This is how ATMs get hacked in Russia

Forget tiny card skimmers and clever malware attacks. In Russia, many of the attempts to illegally obtain cash from ATMs are rather more crude – blow the machine up.

English Russia points out that more than 20 Russian ATMs have been blown up recently in an attempt to steal the money. The site reports that criminals pump the cash dispensers with propane, which they then ignite, in the process tearing the machines apart with brute force. The explosions can send debris up to 50 meters from the ATM.

It clearly works: the perpetrators typically make off with 2,500,000 Rubles, or around $NZ70,000, at a time.

(Nov ’14)


An Internet connected litter box

We all know the Internet is littered with photos and videos of cats, and there are all sorts of ways to make sure your favourite feline is eating, but what about a way to monitor the natural consequence of all that kibble?

That’s what Tailo is for - a smart scale that sits under the litter box and monitors the “elimination behaviours” of your cat. Really.

The Wi-Fi-gizmo's creators say that this is to make keeping an eye on your cat's health easier, and act as an early detection system for any possible ailments. They also claim that it's the first product of its kind.

Naturally, all of the collected data is accessible via a mobile app that can even send reminders for when the box needs cleaning… you know, in case you've gotten used to the telltale aroma after years of cat ownership.

Have a $US100 to burn? Hit the project's Kickstarter page at the link below and help make any dreams of cat-poo analytics on your mobile device a reality. Launch expected April 2015.

Cat sold separately.

(Nov ’14)


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