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Interesting snippets from around the globe

Yahoo for sale on Craigslist

Some bright spark has set up an ad on Craigslist putting Yahoo up for sale. It’s listed for $US8 billion or best offer under the “antiques” section; the condition is stated as “salvage” and the dimensions/size is “Ginormous”.

Here’s what the ad says:

A beautiful piece in good-to-fair condition, showing some signs of wear but easily restored in the hands of the right person. Sadly, the original owners can no longer maintain it.
Total package includes:

· 1 billion users, more or less

· Web email system (now 62% spam free!)

· Bottomless archive of Kim Kardashian photos

· Flickr & Tumblr

· Fully equipped Nautilus gym

· A really nice cafeteria

· The Yahoo Weather app

· Katie Couric

If you and your friends have a bit of spare cash, nothing to do on the weekend and would like a doer-upper, check out the link below.

(May ‘16)


Time to uninstall QuickTime for Windows

Security firm Trend Micro has discovered two critical security flaws in Apple’s QuickTime software for Windows which could be exploited to attack PCs.

The vulnerability could put users at risk if they visit a web page or open a file injected with malicious content.

The report says that Trend Micro hasn’t learned yet of any attacks that make use of the flaws in question, but the company reports that Apple is withdrawing support for QuickTime on Microsoft’s OS and won’t fix the bugs, so it’s possible that hackers may try to exploit them in the future.

Both Trend Micro and the US Department of Homeland Security have issued alerts to uninstall the software to mitigate the chances of falling prey to attackers.

OS X users needn’t worry as QuickTime for Mac is still being supported.

(May ‘16)


Apple = 40% of Silicon Valley profits

The San Jose Mercury News reports that last year 40% of Silicon Valley's profits came from one company – Apple.

"The iPhone maker accounted for 28 percent of the Bay Area tech industry's $US833 billion in 2015 sales," while "Its profits were a jaw-dropping 40 percent of the region's $133 billion total." Meanwhile, Google's parent company Alphabet racked up $US75 billion in sales, representing nearly 57% of the total for all Silicon Valley internet companies, followed by eBay and PayPal. 
But while sales grew, internet-company profits fell by 29% as more companies focused on growth. "Profits are nice, sure, but becoming profitable isn't the top priority around here, particularly for younger firms," wrote the newspaper, noting that investors are paying 18 times Facebook's annual sales for its stock.

In fact, 29% of Silicon Valley's top companies didn't have sales growth in 2015 (an increase from 17% the previous year), and five of the top 10 companies saw a drop in sales in 2015 (including Intel).

If that trend continues, those whose sales are dropping will be wondering what to do next.

(May ‘16)


Apple’s recycling is paying off

If Apple’s smartwatch thing doesn’t work out, they could have a prosperous future in iPhone recycling.

In their recently released annual environmental report which covers 2015, the company shared how much material its recycling initiative had recovered from collected iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and anything else people sent in.

Apple says it recovered over 61 million pounds (~28 million kgs) of stuff, and at today’s prices, it’s worth well over $US50 million with $US40 million in gold alone, according to Business Insider.

They also recovered (in tonnes) 10,000 of steel, 6,100 of plastic, 5,400 of glass and 2,050 of aluminium.

Nice work.

(May ‘16)


Love is in the air

Planning to get married soon? Have a lot of extra money you don't know what to do with?

Enter DronesDirect's Wedding Proposal Package, a way to take the stress out of a marriage proposal.

Why not spend a mere $NZ10,000 to hire a pair of drones for a few minutes: one to bear the ring (not included), the other to film the awkward moment when the first whirling-bladed quadcopter descends on your unsuspecting beloved.

Apart from the expense and being a little over-the-top, you also risk chopping up your sweetheart like a pork roast (second link).

Nevertheless, it would certainly be memorable!

(May ‘16)


The mattress that knows when you are hooking up

According to a recent study (first link), Spanish men and women are some of the most unfaithful in the world. In light of this, Durmet – a Spanish mattress company – has come up with a rather unorthodox solution to put an end to infidelity.

The ‘Smarttress,’ probably named one night by the lads in the pub, is a slightly bizarre way to catch unfaithful partners. Its ‘Lover Detection System” (seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up) includes 24 ultrasonic sensors capable of “capturing suspicious movement” and alerting both bed owners of the activity via mobile app.

The app can also track a full range of statistics from speed to intensity and impact — you know, in case you’re keeping score. Or, you can just pull up a 3-D map of the mattress to show exactly which part of the bed your promiscuous partner is using to get down.

You can even get a statistical breakdown of when the magic happens. Presumably it will exclude the stats for the cat being on the bed (again).

It is possible that this is all a hoax. The Durmet logo has the tagline “Sueno Delicatessen” which translates from Spanish into Dream Delicatessen. The Smarttress website has a “Buy Online” option which says, “Send us an email and we will contact you as soon as posible.” (The spelling error is theirs, not mine.)

(May ‘16)


UK bans cold callers from blocking CLI

Just as you sit down to dinner and another call arrives from some direct marketer ‘conducting a survey’. Bloody annoying, and in the U.K they are doing something about it.

From May 16th, any direct marketing firm registered in the UK – regardless of where they're physically based – won't be allowed to hide the number they are calling from. While seeing a withheld number pop-up on your mobile is a pretty clear sign it's a nuisance call, having the digits in your log gives you an opportunity to take them to task.

With numbers available, the government hopes more people unduly targeted by cold callers will be inclined to report offenders. And if a company is found to be skirting the rules, they can expect a fine of up to £2 million from Ofcom, the regulator. In addition, offenders could face an additional £500,000 slap on the wrist from the UK's Information Commissioner's Office.

Wish they’d regulate it here too.

(May ‘16)

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Find out if your partner is using Tinder

Have you ever wondered if your significant other (or boss, or friend, or ex-flame, or parent) might be playing on Tinder? Well, now you can find out once and for all.

A new website called Swipebuster is letting people pay $US4.99 in exchange for a definitive answer about whether their partner is on the dating app or not. If they are, you’ll get to see their profile photos, details of their preferences and the smoking gun – the last time they logged on.

With the payment you get three searches. All you need is the first name, gender and age of the person you want to snoop on and within seconds, you’ll have an answer.

Swipebuster isn’t breaking any privacy rules either. Input the search information and Swipebuster retrieves the data from Tinder’s application programming interface, or A.P.I., which holds all of this information about its users. (Tinder’s A.P.I. and database are public, making it easily accessible and sortable for anyone with an understanding of computer code.)

The site then displays the users who fit those criteria, allowing searchers to see their photos, when they logged on, and whether they are seeking out men or women.

That’s only scary if you are one of the 42% of users who are in a relationship or 30% of users who are married according to a survey by GlobalWebIndex.

(May ‘16)


When the video ads are watching you

Your tolerance for watching video ads online may vary, but how would you feel if the video ad watched you back? That’s the premise of a new ad unit from Berlin-based ad tech start-up Vyking.

Dubbed ReactivAds, the suite of interactive video ad formats promises to leverage “emotion, facial and gesture recognition” via any device’s webcam to offer a more personalised ad experience based on Vyking’s live facial expression analysis technology. Once a user opts-in, of course.

When a user opts-in to enter an ad experience, they allow access to their webcam. Vyking says they will not store the user’s images and their gestures and expressions will only be analysed in real-time.”

As to how the new ReactivAds might work in practice, here are two examples.

In the first, you might be asked to watch an ad in return for accessing otherwise paid-for content (i.e. a publication’s paywall). Once permission is granted, Vyking’s technology detects your location and, based on your facial traits, estimates your gender and age to deliver the most relevant ad. The video ad then adapts depending on your facial expression or gesture.

The second type of ReactivAds is described as more immersive. Again, you’ll be asked for consent to activate your webcam, and then an image or other brand content will be merged with your live video feed using the same facial detection technology. This is more akin to Augmented Reality technology, and the resulting content will have the option to be shared via social media.

But what’s in it for advertisers and publishers? Here the case for ReactivAds is more clear cut. Greater engagement should enable publishers to charge a higher rate for ads. And, by using facial recognition technology, the effectiveness of ads can likely be measured in new ways.

(May ‘16)


Ford’s latest patent looks a little dangerous

Ford announced earlier this year that it was ramping up its self-driving car testing. What it didn’t mention was that the company is at least looking into the idea of turning those vehicles into mobile movie theatres. A patent has been filed for an “Autonomous Vehicle Entertainment System,” as spotted by Forbes.

The document shows a car that transforms into a movie theatre while the car is driving itself, with a projector screen blocking the windscreen and the front seats slid back so you can relax and enjoy the ride.

Should the driver actually need to drive at any point, the screen will disappear into the car’s roof and a secondary display will take over for the passengers in the back.

This sounds like a ludicrous idea to me. Sure, drivers can relax a little, but as most other car manufacturers have already pointed out, drivers still need to have their wits about them.

Would you really feel comfortable letting a screen block your windscreen while traveling on the open road?

Driverless cars can’t account for the other idiot drivers on the road and having a movie screen blocking the road ahead with seats reclined will undoubtedly slow down the reaction time in an emergency, if the driver is even aware that a calamity is about to occur.

(Mar ‘16)


Museum of Endangered Sounds

Brendan Chilcutt's Museum of Endangered Sounds preserves the sounds made by "old technologies and electronics equipment."

From the obvious (Win95 and OS7 start-up chimes, rotary phone dial, modem squeal) to the obscure (Tamagotchi alerts, CD skips, IM chimes), it's fantastic.

This from the website:

Imagine a world where we never again hear the symphonic startup of a Windows 95 machine. Imagine generations of children unacquainted with the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV. And when the entire world has adopted devices with sleek, silent touch interfaces, where will we turn for the sound of fingers striking QWERTY keypads? Tell me that. And tell me: Who will play my GameBoy when I'm gone?

These questions and more led me to the undertaking that is The Museum Of Endangered Sounds.

My ten-year plan is to complete the data collection phase by the year 2015, and spend the next seven years developing the proper markup language to reinterpret the sounds as a binary composition.

(Mar ‘16)


Mastercard: pay with a selfie

Mastercard is looking to add a layer of biometric security to its credit cards and all user will need to do is simply take a selfie. The system will create a digitized map of your face, convert that map into a hash and compare it to the hash stored on Mastercard's servers.

Users will be able to pay through a mobile app with either their fingerprints or by staring into the device and blinking once. The blink is used to prevent someone from just holding up a picture of you to spoof the system.

The company reportedly already has deals in place with Google, Apple, Blackberry and Microsoft, with hopes to begin a limited 500-person pilot program later this fall. Once they work out all the kinks with the new system, it could be available to the public as early as next year.

(Mar ‘16)


LiFi could leave WiFi way behind

Connecting your smartphone to the web with just a lamp - that is the promise of Li-Fi, short for 'light fidelity,' which features Internet access that is 100 times faster than Wi-Fi.

French start-up Oledcomm demonstrated the revolutionary wireless technology at the Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile fair, held in Barcelona in February.

As soon as they placed a smartphone placed under an office lamp, it started playing a video. The big advantage of Li-Fi is theoretical speeds of over 200 Gbps, which is fast enough to "download the equivalent of 23 DVDs in one second.

It’s “light-ening fast.

(Mar ‘16)



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