As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.
Happy Birthday, Jane Goodall! Enjoy This Kiss From An Animated Ape
Hoo hoo hoo hooray! Today is Jane Goodall’s 81st birthday, and the beloved primatologist no doubt is fielding birthday wishes from her fans around the world.
HuffPost Science wanted to offer Dr. Goodall birthday wishes of our own, but “Happy Birthday, Jane” just didn’t seem sufficient for a scientist who built a career observing animals who communicate without words. So we animated an amorous chimpanzee to give the good doctor a cheeky birthday smooch. Mmmmmwwwwaaa!
Animation by Eva Hill.
Briefly: Autism Awareness Day apps, Apple's rising China marketshare
Apple has showcased 16 apps specifically designed for autistic persons in the Education section of the iOS App Store. Two apps in particular, Proloquo2Go and Proloquo4Text, are being offered at an unusual sale price of $110 and $120 respectively, half off their normal cost due to the promotion. MacNN reviewed Proloquo2Go a little over a year ago, finding it be the best in class. Other apps spotlighted help users with math, clothing choices, environment comfort, and more.
Death of the hidden Easter egg?
The end of the hidden Easter Egg?
FTC Commissioner Julie Brill Shares The Best Ways To Protect Your Online Privacy
If you’ve ever entered personal information into an online contest, your data is probably being used in ways you didn’t expect, according to Julie Brill, a commissioner for the Federal Trade Commission. In the video above, Brill shares with HuffPost Live tips for protecting your online presence, from staying on top of your credit score to checking the privacy settings on your social media profiles.
Click here for the full conversation with FTC Commissioner Julie Brill.
Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live’s new morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before!
'Full House' Reunion Show 'Fuller House' Reportedly Coming To Netflix
lol, okay: Netflix is reportedly “this close” to reviving “Full House” as a 13-episode reunion show called “Fuller House,” TVLine reported on Thursday. According to the site, the series will be a multi-cam show starring Candace Cameron Bure as DJ Tanner and Andrea Barber as Kimmy Gibler. Netflix did not return HuffPost Entertainment’s immediate request for comment.
TVLine also reports that “Full House” stars John Stamos, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier could make guest appearances, and Stamos may produce.
The cast has reunited countless times over the past few years, and some of the stars have commented about the possibility of an on-screen reunion. Last year, Stamos told Page Six, “We’ve said no to every sort of reunion. Lately there’s one that we sort of are gravitating towards. It’s not a complete reunion, but a twist. If we can get it done right … then we will do it.” Maybe this is what he meant.
For more, head to TVLine.
This Teen's April Fools' Day Joke Totally Backfired, Then It Went Viral
Pranking can be a cruel business.
On April Fools’ Day, 17-year-old Hayleigh McBay from Scotland decided to mess with her boyfriend, David Clarke, by messaging him on WhatsApp and saying “I don’t want to be with you anymore,” followed by, “I’m not happy.” She didn’t expect his response.
Here’s how the exchange went:
well my April fools backfired :s pic.twitter.com/DhKh3jsWtO
— hayleigh mcbay (@hayleigh_mcbay) March 31, 2015
McBay tweeted about the failed prank, and her exchange with Clarke was quickly all over the Internet, getting over 15,000 retweets by Thursday.
Luckily, McBay assured The Huffington Post that her relationship with Clarke is just fine; he was messing with her, too.
“I just thought it would be funny to see if he would fall for it!” she explained. “He knew straight away I was joking, so the prank kind of failed! We’re totally fine and still together.”
Brilliant Invention Could Kill Bulky Phone Chargers For Good
If there’s more than one device in your life, you probably understand the frustration of big, blocky chargers lying all over the place, clogging up your outlets and looking nothing like an organic part of your home.
Chargers are a pain, basically.
But a new Kickstarter project might change that. The SnapPower Charger, an outlet cover plate equipped with a built-in USB slot, fits over your power outlet and lets you plug phones and tablets directly into the wall — no bulky USB converter necessary.
The SnapPower replaces the regular cover plate on a typical wall outlet, but it doesn’t block the outlet’s two sockets, meaning your outlet will work just as it did before, with the addition of a USB port for additional charging space.
SnapPower in action.
It’s such a simple, brilliant solution that you might wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself.
“The standard outlet cover plate found in homes is one of those things that’s there but not noticed,” Sean Watkins, a co-founder of SnapPower, told The Huffington Post. “Our goal was to take something ordinary and turn it into an easy-to-use product that solves an everyday need.”
Installation is pretty easy. First, for safety’s sake, you’ll need to turn off the power to whatever outlet cover you’re switching out. Then, you unscrew the existing faceplate, slap the SnapPower cover into place and screw it in. You don’t have to worry about messing with wires inside your wall, because the device is set up to draw power directly from the outlet.
Watkins told HuffPost the SnapPower charger is safe to use. It will ship with UL certification, meaning it’s been tested for consumer use by an independent safety company. Watkins also said the device “incorporates safety features that prevent surges from damaging attached devices.” Plus, it shouldn’t overload your gadget with too much of a charge.
“Our charger uses a USB-dedicated charging port controller that determines the correct charging settings,” Watkins told HuffPost. “The actual user device itself will determine how the output of the charger is used to charge its own battery. For example, depending on the user device being charged, it will monitor the level of charge in its battery and reduce the charging rate as the battery nears full charge.”
The idea of a USB wall socket isn’t necessarily new, but the SnapPower is considerably simpler than previous examples.
The SnapPower’s Kickstarter campaign has made nearly 13 times more than its initial funding goal — and counting. Well over 10,000 people have backed the project so far, and it runs until May 15. For now, if you contribute $16, you’ll get one SnapPower charger, expected to ship in August.
Up Periscope: Broadcasting Live Video On Your Smartphone
By now, you should be aware of two brand new live-streaming video apps: Periscope and Meerkat. Both applications allow unfiltered, live video broadcasts straight from your smartphone. (iOS only, Android coming soon.) Broadcasts can happen anywhere, anytime and there is no time limit on the length of your broadcast, but your battery may disagree. I discovered Meerkat a few weeks back in Austin, Texas while attending SxSW. It seemed like everyone on Sixth Street was experimenting with this new app. Word spread fast and many of the interactive sessions were being live streamed with Meerkat and shared quickly via Twitter.
Even Dan Rather mentioned Meerkat and how it can help deliver journalists a new tool without relying on a remote setup. The app truly was a game-changer… until a week later when Twitter unveiled their live-streaming app Periscope. Meerkat is still an exciting app, but it simply cannot compete with Twitter’s version because it doesn’t have the funding (or backing of a publicly traded company). Pericope also has a cleaner look, a better user interface, and it’s much easier to use. Since the release of Periscope, I haven’t gone back to Meerkat.
Periscope is not without it’s faults. In the coming months, I hope some important changes are made. For example, there should be a list of categories, so I can find breaking news, tech talks or sports, and not just video of someone’s empty fridge. Periscope also needs the ability to allow users to block viewers from commenting during their broadcast. There are a ton of trolls harassing and leaving inappropriate comments, which prevents the app from maturing and reaching the next level. Filters are necessary if we’re going to take the app seriously. Anyone can broadcast, which is both a blessing and a curse. I can’t wait for the first major news story to break using Periscope, but in the meantime I have to sift through live feeds of people walking, doing laundry, or driving, which is just not good content and boring to watch.
But I did see my first concert! Watching alt+j perform live at Madison Square Garden on Periscope was my first beautiful experience with the app. There were great comments, tons of likes, or hearts, and the feed looked great on my iPhone — it gave me hope for bigger and better things to come. Besides concerts, I would love to see more news and live-streaming of technology conferences or a chat with a CEO or the President. These apps are still in their infancy, so let’s see where they take us next. I can’t wait!
Have a good idea for a broadcast? Follow me on Twitter and Periscope and let’s chat!
What's With All This Communicating?
I was talking to an associate of mine on my cellphone the other day and at the conclusion of our conversation (it took me, by the way, six calls to get past her Voicemail) I said something like, “Okay, good. I’ll email all the info right away.” Her response: “Could you just text me? I’m getting inundated with emails.”
“Sure,” I chirped, and we said goodbye. And then I just had to chuckle. Wow. Now our email is getting to be too much to deal with? So we’re going to move even our important business communications to phone-texts?
When I was a teenager all of my communication was in person or by table-top phone. And if the person wasn’t there or available to the phone when I called, I took it in stride that I just “missed them” and would have to call back later. (Can you imagine that?)
Then this remarkable device called an “answering machine” came along, and it no longer mattered whether my call was answered on-the-spot or not. I could always leave a message–and expect them to respond to it. This was a radical new device that changed everything.
Later, when I was a young man starting out in my career (in communications, ironically), we told each other what we needed to communicate in person, by telephone (sometimes on the message machine) or–if it was a lengthy communication involving, perhaps, some documentation–by something called “mail.”
(This was a way to distribute documents, and sometimes even handwritten communications–believe it or not, people actually wrote things by hand using a fluid kind of connected lettering termed cursive–to be delivered by a person who would actually come right to your doorstep and put it into a small metal container just outside your house.)
As I moved deeper into my adult years, packages continued to be delivered to my door, but documents often came to me by means of a new-fangled gizmo called a “fax.” (That stood for “facsimile transmission.”) And we still had telephones on our desks and in our homes, of course.
Then, in my mid-years, personal computers came along (I know it’s hard to fathom, but I did my early writing as a newspaper reporter on a clattering mechanical contraption called a typewriter) and soon, what seemed like everyone in the land had a computer in their home, with a few communications moving through what was called electronic mail. (Soon shortened to e-mail, then just “email,” without that annoying hyphen.)
As well in my mid-years, what were called “portable phones” appeared. They were nearly as big as a half loaf of bread, but they were portable. And they got smaller and smaller, changed their name to “cellphones”, and you were expected to answer them everywhere, all the time. If you did not, your called wanted to know the reason why.
Within a breath of all this happening, just about everyone moved to a laptop, and you were expected to carry it most everywhere you went, and work on it most everywhere you were, from trains to airplanes to hotel lobbies to coffee shops.
With laptop computers the use of email exploded, and it has now become the preferred way to communicate just about everything. It doesn’t matter how personal the communication (birth announcements, wedding invitations, holiday greetings, thank you notes, termination notices, sympathy cards, Our Relationship Is Over letters), it is now de rigueur to send it electronically. And, of course, all business communication.
Our email boxes are now cluttered. And not just with spam, but with actually, really and truly important messages. So much so that we shutter to even open our mid-morning email–much less look at what has accumulated by the end of the day.
So it’s come to this: “My email is too much for me to deal with anymore. Could you just text me?”
Now we’re sitting around punching out with our thumbs (or, for old folks like me, hunt-and-pecking with our forefinger) a three-paragraph message (because really, honestly, I had more to get across than I can put into 30 characters).
It used to be you went to bed with a loving partner if your life was wonderful, and often as well, with a good paperback–or at least one or the other. Now you catch yourself with your head on the pillow and a hand-held device that does everything a laptop does, and you’re holding it before your dimming eyes, making sure that you’re all caught up on anything and everything happening on your Facebook page, and that you’ve made end-of-the-day checks of your texts and emails to make sure that nobody needs anything from you before you turn the light outs.
We never said this much to each other when I was 20 years old. You could combine a week’s worth of in-person conversations, phone exchanges, and all the stuff that came in the mail and not come up with the volume of communication that takes place by email, cell phone, and text in 48 hours these days.
What’s up with all this communication?
And how long will it be before the texts on our handheld are so frequent and have become so long that we have to say, “Hey, my cell phone never stops ringing no matter where I am or what I’m doing, my email is too cluttered, my text window has something in it constantly…so just send me letter. You know what I mean?
“It’s spelled l-e-t-t-e-r. People call it ‘snail mail.’ If I have a chance in the couple of days after I receive it, I’ll read it. Can we get back to normal here? Oh…oh, that’s right. That was 50 years ago. That was in the Olden Days, when we weren’t communicating a mile-a-minute, every hour of the day.
UK Start Up Erly Stage Studios: 'Make Learning Fun'
Farid Haque’s mother speaks Arabic, his father, Japanese, his friends, Urdu and his wife, Norwegian. When this education technology entrepreneur, publisher and gamer launched his company, the road ahead was obvious.
“I was passionate about bringing the world and different people together. I love education, because it is the one common denominator we all have, where I could make the greatest difference with scalability and tangible results” said CEO Haque, who launched his company, Erly Stage Studios, last November. His flagship product is “Pollywords,” a language-learning app that he hopes will make the world a bit smaller.
Haque loves languages, education and games. “Why not make learning languages fun and more inclusive?” said the globalist and multi-linguist, who was born and raised in UAE and schooled in Canada. He has worked in the U.S. and London, where he now lives. He just opened an office in Abu Dhabi.
Haque saw a problem in the marketplace: most games were in English and he wanted to even the playing field. “I wanted to accommodate players with a broader range of languages,” he said.
And so, Pollywords was born, a “scrabble-like” game that allows users to play in several languages at the same time, even though they may be speaking totally different ones, such as Spanish and French. Two native speakers of a language can also play together, something that will improve their vocabulary.
“This is reinventing the board game for this century,” said Haque. Available from the Apple App store, the game is a classic board format. The words can be in English, Spanish, French, German, Turkish, Arabeasy (Romanized Arabic) and Urdish (Romanized Arabic). East Asian languages will be launched later in the year.
“This is a great opportunity to learn from people all over the world. We built this on a social gaming principle, which is that when you meet, you can learn something by having a social interaction,” Haque said.
His philosophy is to make learning fun and he sees this game as getting out of traditional Education 1.0 and engaging people to learn. “The question is how interested is someone in the content they are learning?” he said.
Haque said that the desire to gain knowledge is in all of us. “We learn best through play and not through what is referred to sometimes as ‘imprisoned learning’ where we are forced into an environment, with a book shoved in our face,” he said.
The inspiration for his path came in 2014, after he worked as CEO and Campaign Director at StartUp Britain, a national campaign launched by UK Prime Minister David Cameron “for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs,” with a goal to inspire and accelerate startups in the UK. Its $1.5 million dollar launch was funded by Paypal, Intuit, AXA and others.
Following his work on the national campaign, Farid became a venture scout helping family offices from Asia explore the world of early-stage investments. ”That experience gave me the bug for start-ups. I was going around the world and meeting with young start-ups with a view to investing in them,” he said. These trips inspired him, and he started making games and publishing, deciding to launch Erly Stage Studios.
Erly Stage Studios focuses on educational products that make learning fun. The company’s product line includes Pollywords, as well as digital graphic novels for a number of subjects, which are being lauded by a number of teachers as an entirely new way to deliver old world content. “We want to reimagine content,” he said.
The company also publishes Erly Stage, a tech journal that focuses on specific verticals in each issue.
Education Technology is an exciting arena; in fact, the company is negotiating a partnership with a large international publishing group, but Haque said this is confidential at the moment. However, he is excited, as he just closed a round of half a million dollars in funding of to seed the business, and is expecting to raise another $300,000, something that he said is challenging at times. “Any entrepreneur knows this — in the beginning, we live and die by our investors, even though having the right team, right leadership, and a burning passion for the problem you are trying to solve are key,” he said.
Right leadership is something that potential investors take a fine-toothed comb to before funding a company, but this where Haque rises to the challenge. He has wide-ranging experience, including advising senior decision makers at No. 10 Downing Street, leading budding entrepreneurs for the Startup Leadership Program (SLP) in London, and experience as a management consultant at Accenture in the corporate strategy practice. He has raised venture capital. And somewhere way back, he had internships at Schlumberger and Lego, right out of the University of Toronto in Canada, where he studied chemical engineering.
Building a company is never an easy feat, but Haque said that, “It came together with a few people, and it has grown. There are ten people now. Some of those hires were serendipity but some well calculated,” he said, adding that people like Peter Theil in their book Zero to One say that there is no such thing as luck, but success is a mix of luck and hard work coming together.
“We are working hard to prove our products and scale up with the right people. Having the right cultural fit is important. There is a family feel to us, we are a close team and everyone knows each other,” he said.
Most exciting, is that the company is geographically diverse. Traveling all over the globe and opening in London, Karachi, Manila and Abu Dhabi have allowed him to hire the best talent. He just added someone in San Francisco. He calls his company a “mini-multinational.”
“Our studio is truly global. You hire the best talent where it is available. With technology, running an international business today has never been easier,” he said.
IBM Uncovers Bank Transfer Cyber Scam
By Bill Rigby
SEATTLE (Reuters) – IBM has uncovered a sophisticated fraud scheme run by a well- funded Eastern European gang of cyber criminals that uses a combination of phishing, malware and phone calls that the technology company says has netted more than $1 million from large and medium-sized U.S. companies.
The scheme, which IBM security researchers have dubbed “The Dyre Wolf,” is small in comparison with more recent widespread online fraud schemes but represents a new level of sophistication.
According to IBM, since last year the attackers have been targeting people working in companies by sending spam email with unsafe attachments to get a variant of the malware known as Dyre into as many computers as possible.
If installed, the malware waits until it recognizes that the user is navigating to a bank website and instantly creates a fake screen telling the user that the bank’s site is having problems and to call a certain number.
If users call that number, they get through to an English-speaking operator who already knows what bank the users think they are contacting. The operator then elicits the users’ banking details and immediately starts a large wire transfer to take money out of the relevant account.
The use of a live phone operator is what makes the scheme unique, said Caleb Barlow, vice president of IBM Security.
“What’s very different in this case, is we saw a pivot of the attackers to use a set of social engineering techniques that I think are unprecedented,” said Barlow. “The focus on wire transfers of large sums of money really got our attention.”
IBM did not release any details on which companies fell prey to the scheme or the location of the perpetrators.
Once the transfer is complete, the money is then quickly moved from bank to bank to evade detection. In one instance, IBM said, the gang hit the victim company with a denial of service attack – essentially bringing down their Web capabilities – so it would not discover the theft until much later.
International Business Machines Corp’s security unit is recommending that companies make sure employees are trained in spotting phishing attacks – where emails or attachments can infect a computer – and to never provide banking credentials to anyone.
The unit published a blog on the issue on its site.
(Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
Searching for useful OB/GYN Apps is difficult
Recent study shows less than 25% of apps on obstetrics and gynecology are useful.
The post Searching for useful OB/GYN Apps is difficult appeared first on iMedicalApps.
New Technologies Have Made It Harder To Determine If School Bomb Threats Are Real
WASHINGTON (AP) — Tech-savvy students and others are using smartphone apps, social media and Internet phone services to make anonymous reports of bombs and other threats of violence at schools. The result: school evacuations and police sweeps.
In most cases, such a threat turns out to be a hoax. Still, the use of the modern technologies has made it that much harder to determine if a threat is real and to find the culprit, compared to the past when they were often called in by pay phone or written on bathroom walls.
Just this week, a 16-year-old from Gateway High School in Kissimmee, Florida, was arrested for posting about a bomb threat on Twitter because “she was angry and did not want to go to school,” according to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.
School safety experts say the number of such incidents appears to be increasing – as are the complexity of the cases. The latest figures from the National Center for Education Statistics for the 2009-2010 school year show 5,700 such disruptions.
“They send a great deal of fear and panic throughout a community,” said Kenneth Trump, a school safety consultant who is president of National School Safety and Security Services. His group reviewed more than 800 threats reported in the media during the first half of the 2014-2015 school year and found that about one-third were sent electronically using text message, social media, email or other online means.
Complicating matters, the threats aren’t just coming from within school walls or even a school’s neighborhood.
Last fall, Lakota Middle School in Federal Way, Washington, was placed in lockdown and police responded after an email purportedly from the Islamic State group demanded ransom money and threatened to “shoot and kill” every American, according to a police report. A 14-year-old student was arrested after admitting the email had been sent by her online friend “Ryan” after she told him to “swat” her school because she thought it would be funny, police said.
“Swatting” plays off the idea of issuing a threat that draws a SWAT team in response, disrupting activities at the target of the threat. It appears to have originated with pranksters in the online gaming community.
In a separate case, a 14-year-old in western Michigan was ordered by a judge to pay nearly $8,000 in restitution to the Coopersville Area Public Schools and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office for his involvement in a swatting incident that put schools in lockdown after a caller using computer-based technology made threats against the schools. Authorities say the call was made by a person code-named “Ransom,” whom the teen had met online. “Ransom” is believed to live in the United Kingdom and is suspected in a string of similar incidents from coast to coast, authorities said.
“He will learn from this,” the teen’s father said, according to the Grand Rapids Press in Michigan.
The motivations of the threat makers vary: avoiding a test, revenge or simply to show off. With swatting, a motivation appears to be thrill-seeking, said Capt. Mark Bennett with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.
It’s not too difficult for students to figure out how to pull off such an incident, said Justin Cappos, a computer science professor at New York University who studies cybersecurity. “You wander to the wrong parts of the Internet and you can learn how to do it and not get caught,” Cappos said.
With each incident, there’s a risk when authorities respond, said Detective Jerrad Ely, a digital forensics expert with the Mount Vernon Police Department in Washington who has been investigating a bomb threat case against a school in his community. “They could inadvertently get hurt when police are just trying to do their jobs based on the best information that they have,” he said.
Applications such as Burnbook, Afterschool, Yik Yak, Whisper and Kik also have been used by students to make threats anonymously.
In Michigan, Superintendent Timothy Stein of the Flushing Community Schools wrote to parents in December informing them about a posting on Afterschool that said, “Bringing a Gun to School.” The posting had been brought to the high school principal’s attention by a text message; police quickly determined that it was not a credible threat.
“I encourage you to ask you child to stop using this app and remove it from their phone,” Stein said.
Every threat has to be taken seriously even though in most cases the called-in danger is not real, said David Pennington, superintendent of schools in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and president of the AASA School Superintendents Association.
Meanwhile, social media and other electronic means of communication are keeping parents informed about threats. Mindful of past school shootings, they are demanding that children be pulled out of school even as school and law enforcement officials investigate.
“The security of people has been greatly eroded in this country, as you know, just through awful things that have happened,” said Mark Davidson, deputy superintendent at the Federal Way Public Schools.
Interactive Game Captures The Harrowing Reality Of Being Harassed
If you ever meet someone who doesn’t understand that sexual harassment is a big deal, invite them to play “Freshman Year.”
The interactive game, created by game designer Nina Freeman, follows a character named Nina as she goes to a bar to meet up with a friend. As Nina navigates the evening, you get to make decisions for her each step along the way.
In the game Nina gets ready to go out with a friend who invited her to a bar. Nina’s friend is late meeting her, and the game lets you choose what she does next — change into a miniskirt, or stay in jeans and a sweater? Wait for her friend outside, or head into the bar alone? Regardless of the choices made, Nina ends up being sexually harassed and assaulted by a bouncer.
The game is an autobiographical vignette based on a night Freeman had in college, and stepping into Nina’s virtual shoes is a chilling experience. It’s even more impactful when you consider that 1 in 5 college women will experience sexual violence during their time at college, and the majority of these assaults are unreported. Even when a victim does file a complaint, fewer than one-third of reported college sexual assault cases result in an expulsion.
“I was trying to evoke the fear and confusion that I remember feeling when I had this experience as a college freshman,” Freeman told The Huffington Post. “This incident was largely brushed aside by my friends at the time as ‘not a big deal,’ because ‘it happens to everyone.’”
Freeman hopes that the game will show people who may not have been harassed just how harrowing the experience can be.
“I always wanted to make something that could help people understand that being harassed is indeed a big deal,” she said. “I know it’s a big deal, because I experienced it, and it was scary and traumatic. Freshman Year is meant to help [a] player embody my lived experience, so that they may better understand the gravity of my experience with harassment.”
Check out the game here.
How a Fart Paid My Bills
Many writers are opposed to writing for free, and I don’t blame them. It’s nice to get paid for our work, and “exposure” won’t pay the bills. But, sometimes a silly blog submitted on a prominent site can result in unexpected income.
A few months ago, I wrote a humiliating post about farting during an MRI procedure and submitted it to the Huffington Post.
The darn thing went viral with more than 685,000 hits and was translated into several languages, including Korean and German. I received emails from around the world and only can conclude that people in Korea like fart stories.
Anyway, my posts on HuffPost aren’t compensated, but my profile is on every post and it includes a link to my website, displays the covers of my two latest books, and adds links for how to purchase the books on Amazon.com. The sales of those books increased dramatically after the fart blog. Amazon pays quarterly, so I recently received payment for paperbacks and e-books sold since the blog was published, and the income was enough to pay off all my credit cards.
The e-book of Midlife Cabernet rose to #1 in sales in the humor category and #3 in the top 100 books sold in all categories. These rankings lasted only a few hours on December 24, 2014, but I was able to capture the image with the #1 ranking:
Amazon Best Sellers
Midlife Cabernet #1 in Humor, #3 in Top 100
Our most popular products based on sales. Updated hourly.
Best Sellers in Humor
Top 100 Paid
Midlife Cabernet: Life, Love & Laughter…
by Elaine Ambrose
4.9 out of 5 stars
The other value to blogging is that it uses my brain. It’s difficult for me to sit down and write 3,000 words for my next book, but a 500-word blog takes an hour or two. I enjoy creating a brief message that I hope is witty or at least enlightening. I finally learned how to add photographs and publish a cohesive blog on my website. It takes a few more minutes to post the blog to various sites, then I can relax and eat cookies and drink a celebratory glass of wine.
Some writers will scoff at the lack of literary value of my humorous blogs, and others will negatively judge my willingness to forfeit my professional reputation by capitalizing on a story for the 10-year-old boys within us. They have every right to hunker down and sweat over crafting the perfect sentence. (Is there one?) I, too, can write serious prose and I’m working on a memoir that is not humorous. But for now, I’ll just walk to the bank, farting all the way.
Has Personal Technology Killed the Mystery of Travel?
I recently traveled out of the country. What was most striking about this recent trip was the constant and inescapable presence of personal technology. At the airport, on the airplane, in the customs line, at the baggage claim, in the hotel lobby, at the hotel bar, by the pool, on the beach, in the cafes, parks and shops, on the local buses, walking the avenues…wherever I went, people were staring into their personal screens. Travelers don’t look up much from their devices anymore, not to observe or interact with the people around them, absorb the different sights and sounds, or take in anything happening in their actual physical surroundings. Most travelers are entrenched in communicating with their home people, engaging with their home games, completing their home habits, checking their home life, and essentially, being who they are and living the life they have at home.
People traveling these days appear to be too preoccupied and distracted by their technology to be able to experience their travels, which is not the same thing as experiencing their phones while traveling, but rather actually living the unknown that travel offers. People now appear to be too absent from the actual experience of travel to be able to be deeply affected by or change as a result of it. Regardless of where we are in the world, we can now use our personal technology so as to never really have to leave home, change in any way, experience the unknown, or stretch outside our familiar sense of self. Whether or not our body is physically on the other side of the globe is increasingly irrelevant to our inner state. As long as we are situated and tethered inside our smartphones, we are able to stay happily and safely inside our comfortable sameness.
Technology has changed the experience of traveling. With personal devices now our constant companions, the best parts of traveling have disappeared. Rest assured what’s been lost is not that we no longer wear ties and skirts on airplanes and wear sweat pants instead. Rather, what is no longer is the given that traveling will include meeting new people or even, living new experiences.
Before our personal technology became a part of every moment, traveling included a lot of down time, long stretches when we didn’t have much to do other than stare out a window, think, read a book, or maybe, strike up a conversation with a stranger. With travel came a lot of just being, with ourselves and others.
In addition, travel used to take us out of the comfort and routine of our habits, put our sense of self in flux, and liberate us from our idea of who we are. Travel held the capacity to make us feel and experience ourselves differently. Separated from our normal life, untethered from all the things, roles and relationships by which we define our identity, we were free to be whoever we wanted to be. The present moment and who we were in it held great possibility for freshness and the unknown. Anything could happen when we traveled because we were less defined and confined, and thus more open to something new.
Furthermore, what made travel so special is that we had an unequaled opportunity to meet the people around us, who were often quite different from us. Meeting people wasn’t just an opportunity but more like a given, an inherent part of the travel experience and why we engaged in it. It was also, frequently, through the new people we met along the way that our travels were inspired and enriched. We may have gotten to know someone on a train who then told us of an aunt who had a bungalow in which we could stay, or of a local restaurant not to be missed, or a spectacular mountain trail. People along the way offered priceless travel and life experience, just as we shared our own. We connected not just to other flights, but to other human beings. It was often these other humans, who started out as strangers, but with whom we ended up sharing a meal, a journey, or even our life. Undoubtedly, some of the most interesting and important experiences in my own life have occurred because of the people I met through my journeys, and sometimes just because I spoke to the person sitting right next to me.
While it is very easy to use our devices to create a constant state of comfort and familiarity, there lies a great opportunity in travel and all experiences that pull us out of our usual circumstances. When we are willing to meet the unknown and possibly become someone different, allow ourselves to be affected by places and people we don’t know, we evolve and live — fully. The next time you are traveling, try an experiment: put your personal devices away and bring your attention to where you actually are. Notice your physical environment and the people in it. Feel what the air feels like in your new environment, listen to the sounds, see the colors, taste the flavors, smell the aromas; sync up your attention with where your body is in that moment. Notice too how your body feels in its new environment and if your sense of self is different in any way. Use your travels as a doorway to being where you are, In the process, you might also meet a new friend, have a fresh experience, or even find your self to have changed.
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The environmental situation facing many nations in the mid-to-late 20th century was bleak. Industrial waste caused the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland to catch fire in 1969. The Rhine River was long one of the most polluted waterways in Europe, similarly catching fire in 1986. School children in Japan were dying from Mercury poisoning. Problems associated with drought and desertification were already underway in China; a process that has only quickened in the early 21st century. Into this world stepped seminal figures including the marine biologist Rachel Carson whose 1962 book, Silent Spring, documented the effects of widespread pesticide use in the United States and is credited with jumpstarting the modern environmental movement. Much like that time, the 21st century cybersecurity landscape is littered with failed attempts to manage the various facets of cyber attacks, from cybercrime and espionage, to nascent threats introduced below including cyber war and terrorism. But we are still waiting for our cyber Silent Spring.
In the search for analogies to get a better handle on the multifaceted cyber threat, we should not ignore the green movement. Consider the Aria hotel in Las Vegas, which is famous for more than its slot machines — it is also known for its wet towels. “‘We say, if you want us to wash your towels every day, we will do it, just let us know,’ says Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer for MGM Resorts, which owns Aria, ‘but other than that, we’re just going to hang the towels up every night.’” Such measures may seem small, but they add up to Aria being a pioneer in sustainability. It is saving a bundle, and generating business in the process. Large multinationals such as IBM provide surveys to Aria that ask questions about everything from waste recycling to water use (hence the wet towels). If Aria elected not to make investments in sustainability, it would be at a competitive disadvantage to its competitors that were.
The example of Aria is illuminating as applied to promoting cybersecurity for three reasons. First, it demonstrates that furthering a company’s sustainability by promoting corporate social responsibility is not necessarily at odds with the bottom line; it can be a strategic advantage to firms allowing them to distinguish themselves and add value. The same may be said of investments to enhance cybersecurity, be they technological or organizational, allowing firms with best-in-class cybersecurity to charge a premium for their services. Second, the Aria example illustrates the cost savings that can come from investing in sustainability initiatives with a short return on investment. Although determining a cost-benefit analysis for cybersecurity investments is more problematic than figuring out the amount saved on utility bills, firms with more proactive cybersecurity investments have been shown to save in the event of cyber attacks. The third dimension to the Aria tale is the power of leveraging supply chains through information sharing to attain a corporate goal and even build trust. In this case, “IBM encourages MGM. MGM encourages its vendors. And more and more businesses feel pressure to go green.” If more companies used the power of their supply chains to signal the need to invest in cybersecurity best practices, then the cause of sustainable cybersecurity could be enhanced.
Along with the growth of the sustainability movement generally in the private sector, there has been a concomitant evolution of tools designed to better inform managers about the various impacts of their business decisions. Among the most common sustainability reporting tools today, especially in Western Europe and the United States, is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Nearly 7,000 organizations have submitted more than 17,000 GRI reports as of December 2014 making the framework the dominant sustainability-reporting standard for international business. The movement for a more robust disclosure regime for sustainability mirrors the clamoring by investors for more information regarding cyber attacks. In fact, it has been reported that, “almost 80 percent [of surveyed firms] would likely not consider investing in a company with a history of attacks.” The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published its views on disclosure requirements in 2011, and although it stopped short of requiring publicly traded firms to disclose all cyber attacks, it interpreted existing regulations broadly, for example, in requiring disclosure of “material” attacks leading to financial losses, and hinted that additional reporting requirements may be coming. Companies would be well-advised to get ahead of both the sustainability and cybersecurity regulatory curves and begin integrated reporting that combines a firm’s impact on the environment, economy, and surrounding communities with its cybersecurity footprint.
Other tools drawn from the sustainability movement beyond integrated reporting may also have some application to enhancing cybersecurity. Elements within the private sector could also, for example, begin developing the digital equivalent of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED standards), which would help identify firms with best-in-class cybersecurity. The program is a “voluntary, consensus-based, market-driven program that provides third-party verification of green buildings.” As of October 2014, more than three billion square feet of building space were LEED certified in the United States. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework could provide a foundation on which to build a LEED-type cybersecurity certification scheme. Already, according to the White House, for example, Bank of America has announced that it is using the NIST Framework and will also require it of its vendors.
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring similarly was not written overnight, and it took years before the first Earth Day and decades more before tools matured for companies to more effectively measure and improve their sustainability goals. Unfortunately, we don’t have decades to wait. The time for action is now, and the path forward includes learning from what has worked and what has not in other contexts including the green movement to pave a path toward sustainable cybersecurity. In the introduction of Silent Spring, Carson speaks of a once idyllic U.S. town now blighted by a “white granular powder …” It was not caused by “witchcraft … The people had done it to themselves.” That is equally true in sustainability as cybersecurity; we are to blame, and we are the solution.
Scott Shackelford is an Assistant Professor of Business Law and Ethics at Indiana University. He is also a W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. The full article on which this op-ed is based is forthcoming with Professor Timothy L. Fort in the University of Illinois Law Review (2016), a draft of which is available here.
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