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.

Google to shut Spanish news service

Online search giant Google is shutting down its Google News service in Spain before a new intellectual property law is introduced.

Hacked Sony Emails Reveal Embarrassing Exchange About Obama's Movie Preferences

An exchange between Sony Pictures chair Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin turned into a riff on films they thought the president liked.

Law targets online child abusers

A new offence is to be created to stop paedophiles soliciting explicit photos from children via mobile phones or the internet, the prime minister says.

The Art Of Listening

The popular stereotype that a customer service rep spends a lot of the day talking is far from the truth; a good service rep spends much more time listening than talking.

For nearly 18 years, I’ve worked at Canon Information Technology Services (CITS), a company where customer experience and satisfaction is the primary focus. I spend most of my time working with other business units within Canon and managing my team as opposed to interacting with consumers – but it’s just as important for me to be a careful listener.

I’m referring to active, responsive listening that allows customer service reps to tailor each interaction to the customer’s personality, noting the customer’s pace, not just their problem.

A significant portion of the training Canon provides for team members is designed to build their listening skills. They learn to catch subtle vocal cues such as pauses and changes in inflection that will help them understand the customer’s point of view. They match the customer in speed, tone and technical language. And they know that when they get a call, it means a customer has chosen to speak to them rather than access a computer for self-service. That customer deserves to be listened to with the service member’s full attention.

When customers interact with a service rep, they should know that not only has their problem has been addressed, but they are actively glad that they decided to interact with us. Solving problems is just the low bar you need to clear to be in business; having customers feel good about interacting with you is what builds brand loyalty and repeat business.

Not only is listening central to my job, but it’s one of the most rewarding aspects of what I do. Every week, I spend some time listening in as our agents work with customers. I hear their passion, understanding, perseverance and commitment that they bring to their work. The customers they speak to sense that the agents are listening carefully; and I hear how well our agents have learned the skills that we train. This experience reminds me how good it feels to know that you have been listened to by someone ready to make a difference.

Team members know that I am always ready to hear their observations and suggestions, and pass relevant information on to other parts of the company. Our service agents act like a radar system; often, they are the first to spot new trends, issues, and opportunities.

Even after nearly two decades at Canon, the company’s attitude toward customer service still makes me proud. I give tours of our contact center almost weekly. We walk through row after row of reps hard at work, and in each conversation, you can hear the passion. And even when you can tell that someone is dealing with a difficult conversation, you see that they never give up or lose their patience.

They’re always warm. They’re always listening. Day in and day out, they’re doing one of the most difficult and important jobs, and they are what keep customers coming back.

You Might Be Living In The Next Silicon Valley

First it was Pittsburgh and the Steel City. Then it was Detroit, with its assembly line of Fords. Now, the Bay Area is the king of U.S. modern industry, home to tech giants, startups and venture capitalists from near and far.

But what does that mean for the rest of America? Sure, other cities such as New York with Silicon Alley, and Austin, Texas (home to the annual tech festival SXSW) have their own budding enclaves of tech-forward communities. But that is not to say that the rest of the U.S. is lagging behind.

Created in partnership with Citi, below is a list of the 8 U.S. metropoli that should be the next destinations for burgeoning techies.


Known for pristine beaches, hot clubs and even hotter weather, Miami might be one of the last places you would expect to find a tech supercenter. However, that is exactly the direction this southern, sandy city is going.

Although there have been tech pockets in Miami since the beginning of the dot-com era, the industry truly began to blossom three years ago, when an information technology start-up called Terremark was acquired by Verizon for $1.4 billion. As a company with roots in Latin America, CEO Manuel Medina told the Wall Street Journal that Miami is “the logical point to be the technology capital of Latin America,” despite being rooted in the United States.

That’s not to say that all Miami startups have ties to Latin America. A Miami-based medical cloud-service company called CareCloud is bringing a newfound respect to the medical field startup world, with more than $45 million valuation.


San Francisco may be the mecca for tech geeks around the world, but a significant portion of them owe their success to this New England city center. Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates are just a few of the Harvard folk who got their start in a Boston dorm room, and MIT is the top engineering program in the country. Now, the city is not just churning out these techie prodigies and shipping them off; graduates from the regional schools are sticking around and giving Beantown some much-needed tech love.

From Spritz, a speed-reading app, to Circle, a startup hoping to make bitcoin mainstream, Boston is home to a growing number of promising new tech companies. Not to mention the incredible Innovation District, a 1,000-acre space dedicated to innovation and creative freedom.


In recent decades, Motor City has seen its fair share of ups and downs. Once a booming center of the newest technologies (i.e., automobiles), the illustrious American city has struggled in past years. But is the era of the startup generation Detroit’s ticket back to splendor?

It’s looking like that may be the case. From big names like Google, who located one of their hubs to the Midwest city, to small startups like DetroitLabs, Stik and Wisely, a number of companies are capitalizing on the cheap rent, central location and revitalization of Detroit. According to Mike Vichich of Wisely, “There’s a lot of smart people around here, both in Ann Arbor and Detroit, and a decent startup community.” For those people who thought the American Dream was dead, all you have to do is head to Detroit for its tech-focused reinvention.

New Orleans

Welcome to the “Silicon Bayou,” the newfound tech scene in post-Katrina New Orleans. Just as it has been dubbed “Hollywood South” for its generous incentives for the entertainment industry, NOLA has been working feverishly to make techies feel welcome in the Big Easy.

As the Verge points out, startup culture is attracted to areas of urban renewal, and New Orleans is no exception. With events like New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (also known as NOEW), the city has become extremely hospitable to viable tech companies such as Idea Village, MiniVax and more.


When a place is nicknamed “Gig City” for supposedly being the first city in the Western Hemisphere to offer one-gig-per-second internet to its residents and businesses, it makes sense that Chattanooga would be a comfy landing spot for Southern-seeking tech startups.

The Gig City Gig Tank recently partnered with a number of investors and entrepreneurs to accelerate the city’s startup culture. According to Wired, 10 entrepreneur teams will be given $15,000 to come up with the best new idea. Whoever wins the program will get another $100,000. And even students can compete for a $50,000 prize!


This all-American Midwestern city may not seem like the next tech hub from the outside, but it actually is exactly where major investors are flocking. Not only is Cincinnati home to some of the bigger Fortune 500 companies out there (think Proctor & Gamble and Macy’s), but it has low taxes and a strong feeling of entrepreneurship.

One of the top startup accelerator programs in the country, called the Brandery, is based in this lovely Ohio town. “There’s a community of entrepreneurship [here] that you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a flyover city,” co-founder Mike Bott told Entrepreneur.com.


For a city that has been an energy powerhouse, so to speak, it is no surprise that Houston is gaining in the tech sector as well. Although neighboring Austin may get the startup glory, Houston ranks second to Silicon Valley in terms of employed engineers, which is often the key to a budding tech industry. According to Forbes, STEM employment has expanded 24 percent in Houston over the last 13 years.

University of Houston’s Energy Research Park is nothing to scoff at, either. In May, the college announced a deal that could be worth up to $25 million in seed money for promising startups.

Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s capital has already been deemed the “Silicon Valley of the East.” But that doesn’t mean it’s getting the recognition it deserves, as New York’s Silicon Alley can cast a pretty big shadow.

But Washington is positioning itself as a reinvention of Silicon Valley, not just a copycat. While many consider D.C. to be a stable, professional work environment, it is still a transient city that embraces innovation. That groundedness and professionalism extends to the startups in the surrounding areas, a quality that many feel they can’t get on the West Coast. Take Savi Technology for instance, a sensor-based analytics company, that made the choice to move out of Silicon Valley to America’s capital.

“People in Silicon Valley are always on the lookout for the next hot thing, so employee turnover — unless you’re one of the hottest companies — can be very high,” Savi President and CEO William Clark told the Washington Post. “We made an assumption that the talent would be available in the D.C. region, and it turned out that it was.”

For over 200 years, Citi’s job has been to believe in people and to help make their ideas a reality. Learn more about how Citi is bringing together the most talented and creative developers and designers in the world not only in Silicon Valley and New York, but in unexpected places like Miami, Buenos Aires, Bogota and beyond at www.citimobilechallenge.com.

Amazon Customers Do Pay For Shipping

Standard Shipping, Media Downloads Increased During 2014

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) released analysis of consumer behavior for Amazon, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) customers for 2014.

This data indicates that Amazon customers increased their use of standard, paid shipping and media downloads during the first three quarters of 2014. Media downloads, including video, music, book, and game downloads, accounted for 5% of all transactions in the most recent quarter.

In the July-September 2014 quarter, 44% of Amazon customers reported using used standard shipping for their most recent purchase, compared to 28-29% in the prior two quarters (Chart 1). Amazon customers decreased their use of Free Super Saver Shipping and Amazon Prime Free Two-Day Shipping.

Chart 1: US Amazon Customer Shipping Method For Most Recent Purchase

Despite the pressure to offer free shipping, our data suggests that between standard shipping and one- and two-day express shipping, Amazon customers now pay for shipping almost half the time. It’s hard to measure, yet this trend may signal growth in the Amazon Marketplace, where third party retailers sell through Amazon, and which does not offer Amazon Prime or Amazon Super Saver free shipping. It is also consistent with Amazon’s overall revenue growth even as US Prime membership stabilized at 27-29 million members during 2014.

Amazon customers also increased their use of downloads for media. In the July-September 2014 quarter, 5% of customers downloaded media at their most recent purchase, compared to 3% in the prior two quarters.

Amazon not only enjoys a higher percentage of paid shipping transactions, but the percentage of direct download sales is up, too. Our analysis shows that downloads of video, music, books and games now accounts for 5% of all Amazon orders. While small relative to Amazon’s retail business, it increased significantly over 2014. With no shipping and handling expense, and no physical inventory or warehouse space, these transactions are highly desirable.

CIRP bases its findings on surveys of a total of 1,500 US subjects who made a purchase at Amazon.com in the 90 days preceding each survey during the period from January-September 2014. For additional information, please contact CIRP.

Fewer iPhone 6/6 Plus Buyers Shift From Android

Android Owners Buy More Expensive iPhones

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), today released analysis of the results from its research on Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) after the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus on September 19, 2014.

CIRP finds that a smaller percentage of iPhone buyers came from the Google Android platform after the September 2014 launch, relative to the percentage coming from Android after the September 2013 launch. After the most recent launch, 12 percent of iPhone buyers reported having an Android phone, compared to 23 percent after the September 2013 launch.

Previous Phone of iPhone Buyers Within 30 Days of 2014 iPhone Launch

The vast majority of new iPhone buyers were already iPhone owners. Current iPhone owners accounted for over 80 percent of buyers after this launch, compared to less than 65 percent after the iPhone 5S and 5C launch in September 2013. Android owners accounted for a much smaller share of buyers immediately after this year’s iPhone launch, and with smartphones so prevalent in the US, we also saw a smaller percentage of iPhone buyers moving from basic phones.

Android owners did buy more expensive iPhones, relative to the previous launch. At the September 2014 launch, 85 percent of iPhone buyers that previously owned an Android phone bought the new iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. In contrast, at the September 2013 launch, 52 percent of iPhone buyers that previously owned an Android phone bought the then-new iPhone 5S.

iPhone Model Bought by Android Owners In 30 Days After iPhone Launch

Former Android owners were attracted to the iPhone flagship models in greater proportion than last year’s launch. The addition of the flagship premium iPhone 6 Plus accentuated that improvement. If we look at the price points of the iPhones that Android owners bought, this year 59 percent of them bought the $649 unsubsidized price iPhone 6 compared to only 52 percent who bought the new similarly priced iPhone 5S in the same period last year. In addition, another 26 percent of former Android owners bought the $749 unsubsidized price iPhone 6 Plus.

Historically, former Android owners gravitated to the lower priced iPhone models. Following this year’s iPhone launch, only 15 percent of former Android owners bought the legacy 5S and 5C, compared to 47 percent for the lower priced 5C and 4S following the 2013 launch.

Android owners, many of whom already had experience with phones with larger screen phones, were drawn to the 5.5 inch iPhone 6 Plus. 31 percent of former Android owners who bought an iPhone opted for the 6 Plus compared to only 25 percent of existing iPhone owners who chose the larger format flagship phone.

CIRP bases its findings on its survey of 300 US Apple customers, surveyed from October 18-November 4, 2014, that purchased an iPhone in the 30 days following the September 19, 2014 launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models. For additional information, please contact CIRP.

Phone Brand Landscape Shifts, for Now

Samsung Steady in US, LG Grows Share Before iPhone Launch

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) released analysis of the results from its research on mobile phone manufacturers for the calendar quarter that ended September 30, 2014. This analysis features findings about consumer trends in mobile phone handset brands in the US from July-September 2014.

CIRP finds that among the major phone brands, Samsung maintained the largest share, with Apple and LG next. In the quarter, Samsung accounted for more than one-third of US customer activations (Chart 1).

Chart 1: Phone Brand Share of Activations Q3-2014

Samsung maintained its 36 percent share of US phone activations in the third quarter, while Apple dropped from its market leading 39 percent in the second quarter to 28 percent this quarter. Apple customers waited for the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models that Apple finally released in the final two weeks of the quarter. These shares are relatively similar to the same quarter a year ago, when Samsung had 38 percent compared to 34 percent for Apple.

Beyond the two market leaders, other brands market shares vary considerably depending on product launch schedules and market acceptance of their flagship phone. LG’s share jumped from 8 percent in the previous quarter, and 9 percent a year ago, to 18 percent in the third quarter. The new G3 has been well received, allowing LG to jump ahead of other manufacturers and become a viable alternative to Samsung and Apple.

We expect that Apple will regain its market share lead in the fourth quarter, based on the strength of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launch. Apple’s share jumped to 48 percent in the last quarter of 2014, the first full quarter of iPhone 5S and 5C sales.

CIRP bases its findings on a survey of 500 US subjects, from October 1-13, 2014, that activated a new or used phone in the July-September 2014 period. For additional information, please contact CIRP.

Android Dominates an Unusual Quarter

iOS Share Falls as Apple Customers Delay Purchases

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) released analysis of the results from its research on mobile phone operating systems for the calendar quarter that ended September 30, 2014. This analysis features findings about consumer trends in mobile phone operating systems in the US from July-September 2014.

CIRP finds that among two major mobile operating systems, Google Android and Apple iOS, Android won a much larger share of new phone activations than iOS. In the quarter, Android accounted for two-thirds of US customer activations (Chart 1).

Chart 1: Operating System Share of US Activations Q3-2014

Android increased its share of new phone buyers significantly, up from 56 percent of activations in the previous quarter. In contrast, iOS decreased from 39 percent of activations in the previous quarter. While we expected Android to improve its share as Apple customers waited for the launch of new iPhones, the magnitude of increase was significant.

Confirming anecdotal accounts, the other operating systems — Windows and Blackberry, had very small shares. Basic non-smartphones accounted for 3 percent of new phone purchases in the quarter.

With fewer first time smartphone buyers and most former Blackberry owners having abandoned that platform, Apple and Google now need to fight to take customers from each other. This is always a challenging quarter for iOS, since core Apple customers are waiting for the new iPhone models, and we see more buyers switching from iOS to Android than switching from Android to iOS.

CIRP bases its findings on a survey of 500 US subjects, from October 1-13, 2014, that activated a new or used phone in the July-September 2014 period. For additional information, please contact CIRP.

NOAA Hi-Def Radar for Windows Phone Released

WeatherSphere has released their NOAA Hi-Def Radar app for Windows Phone, bringing the impressive weather app to the platform following iOS and Android.  The app provides a wealth of weather and radar information to users, particularly those in the United States.  Further, it provides some unique features to other weather apps in the Windows Phone store that make this app immediately stand above many others available. NOAA Hi-Def Radar for Windows Phone – $1.99 – Download Now There are two big features that the NOAA Hi-Def Radar app brings to Windows Phone that are unique to it.  First, this is

The post NOAA Hi-Def Radar for Windows Phone Released appeared first on Clinton Fitch.

Apple fighting media request for 'pale, weak' Jobs video deposition

Apple is opposing a media request to the court hearing the lawsuit between audio software maker Real and Apple that seeks to release a video deposition made by Steve Jobs, near the end of his life, on behalf of the case. The iPhone maker is opposing the request, saying that the video was part of witness testimony and not entered into evidence, and therefore can’t be released as that would constitute a recording of a portion of the trial, which has not allowed cameras or video.

VIDEO: Tech companies help the homeless

Technology companies in California are trying to engage in the communities they inhabit, by helping the homeless, as Richard Taylor reports.

The most stunning drone pictures of 2014

A selection of this year’s most striking drone pictures

Facebook Didn't Ruin Instagram, Actually Made It 10 Times As Big

When Facebook bought Instagram for a cool $1 billion, some fans worried the social networking juggernaut would somehow make the photo-sharing app uncool and irrelevant.

Instead, Instagram has retained its edge and become a giant.

On Wednesday, Instagram announced a huge leap in users. Three hundred million people now log in each month to thumb through, double-tap and comment on photos. That’s up 50 percent from just nine months ago, when Instagram announced it had reached 200 million monthly users.

As others have pointed out, that makes the photo- and video-sharing service bigger than Twitter, which has 284 million monthly active users.

In other words, Instagram has come a long way since April 2012, when Facebook announced its intention to buy it. At that point, Instagram had just 30 million users.

“Over the past four years, what began as two friends with a dream has grown into a global community that shares more than 70 million photos and videos each day,” Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom wrote in a blog post Wednesday. “We’re thrilled to watch this community thrive and witness the amazing connections people make over shared passions and journeys.”

Facebook has had mixed success with its apps. To be sure, Facebook itself is huge on mobile — the company has said that 1.12 billion people access the social network each month through mobile devices. Messenger, which Facebook essentially forced people to download in order to keep messaging each other through Facebook mobile, has 500 million monthly active users. And WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for an eye-popping $22 billion earlier this year, said in August that it has 600 million monthly users.

There’s almost certainly a lot of overlap there, since many people use more than one of these services. Still, there’s no denying that Facebook’s mobile reach is staggering.

Other apps in the Facebook family — namely, those Facebook has itself developed — haven’t fared as well. Facebook’s Camera, an Instagram-like app that Facebook launched a year before it bought Instagram, and Poke, a Snapchat-like app, were discontinued in May. Meanwhile, Slingshot, Facebook’s latest attempt at a “disappearing messages” app, and Paper, a social news reader the company launched in January, aren’t even among the U.S.’s top 500 downloaded apps, according to data from App Annie, an app-analytics company.

But when you’re as huge as Facebook, not every app needs to be a runaway success. Between WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger and of course Facebook itself, the world’s largest social network already owns a lot of the time you spend on your smartphone.

Rosetta Data Suggest Earth's Water Didn't Come From Comets After All

Where did the Earth get its water? For years some scientists have argued that it was brought here by water-bearing comets that smashed into our planet during its infancy.

But new data from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission suggest that that theory is all wet.

The data show that the chemical signature of water found on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko differs significantly from that of the water found on Earth. (Comet 67P’s water contains about three times more of the heavy hydrogen isotope deuterium than does terrestrial water.) And that has Dr. Kathrin Altwegg, the principal investigator for the Rosetta instrument that collected the data, arguing that it’s unlikely that comets brought water our way.

(Story continues below infographic.)

Rosetta’s measurement of the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio (D/H) measured in the water vapor around Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The measurements were made between Aug. 8 and Sept. 5.

Instead of comets, Altwegg said in a written statement, it could have been asteroids.

She said that while asteroids today contain limited amounts of water, that probably wasn’t the case billions of years ago, according to The Guardian.

Dr. Michael A’Hearn, a University of Maryland astronomer who wasn’t involved in the research, called the new finding startling, the Associated Press reported. But he said it doesn’t rule out the possibility that other kinds of comets could have brought water to Earth.

But Donald Yeomans, program manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object program, told the AP that the finding pretty much does rule out comets.

A paper describing the new data was published online Dec. 10 in the journal Science.

Togetherness Interruptus: Civil Society in the Age of the Smartphone

Every business and government speaks of “civil society” on a regular basis. It is the euphemism for engaging with the nonprofit world. But there is another meaning for the phrase “civil society.” It means being civil to one’s neighbors and strangers on the street, and nurturing a social environment — in real time and space, not on an electronic device. One of the most troubling default behaviors that we have recently come to accept is that most of us (myself included) spend less and less time staring into space and pondering our thoughts or the universe or imagining great romps with our beloveds. No, we’re looking at our phones which we clutch as we walk down the street, talking or texting obliviously while running into people and vehicles.

A recent study from the journal Science showed how far people will go to avoid sitting with their own thoughts:

In 11 studies, we found that participants typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, that they enjoyed doing mundane external activities much more, and that many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts. Most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative.

This is decidedly addictive behavior. And like all addictions, the addict is not the only victim. Smartphones create a terribly discourteous, antisocial, particularly uncivil environment in public spaces. Look around. Someone might need your help and you might want to offer it. Someone might be reading a book you would love to talk about. Someone is wearing an outfit that is intriguing, cool or beautiful. Architecture, street posters, buskers, amazing events, all abound.

But our smartphone keeps the world at bay. Recently, at a bus stop on Fifth Ave., three seats (for the elderly and infirm) were taken by two people who needed the seats and one 30-something woman enraptured by her phone as if it was her newborn. Directly in front of her was a woman who looked about 90 and another who looked about 75. Yet this young woman kept her seat because she had NO idea of her surroundings. I debated intervening, but I stood there while this very elderly woman was standing unnecessarily. I felt awful, but I had intervened in a similar situation on a bus the day before, and the father of the ten year old I had suggested relinquish his seat said to me, “Who are you, the civility police?”

If not each of us, then who?

On the bus and above-ground subways in the past week, I have heard in detail about….stock transactions, hospital/doctor problems of someone’s sister, food at restaurants and what’s for dinner (a dozen times), he did cheat, she didn’t cheat, she doesn’t love me, I do love him, tutoring prices, vacation plans, and other conversations too boring and annoying to recount. Talking in a whisper and/or covering your mouth is the exception and not the rule, which is utterly discourteous.

Father and son together. Father on phone (talking about job — trouble with a customer), and son on his game…with the sound on. In what universe is it considered acceptable to inflict their nerve-jangling electronic bells, whistles, bangs, onto everyone within hearing distance?

Smartphone abuse is not only rude, it’s dangerous. Walking down the streets of NYC, people are texting, looking at their phones and running into others because just as you cannot drive and text you cannot really walk and text either. I have personally saved two people’s lives from being killed as they walked in front of oncoming traffic while texting. I literally grabbed each of them and pulled them back from their ill fates.

All electronic devices are powerful hypnotics, perhaps most memorably when two Northwest pilots on their laptops were out of contact with air controllers for an hour and a half and overshot their destination by 150 miles – despite being pinged numerous times as fighter jets were being scrambled to intercept their plane. And new studies show increased danger and accidents for children, despite apparent adult supervision, as parents and caregivers are distracted from their kids by their smartphones. This is dangerous but also decidedly not quality time with children. These devices are incredibly seductive — and addictive.

It is insensitive and emotionally alienating to have your phone disrupt social, public and family settings — but it has become the norm. At restaurant tables everywhere, people have their smartphones out. And many many people check their messages/email/texts regularly in order to get that little dopamine hit. Yesterday afternoon on a train, the couple next to me were talking; she was speaking intimately about her recently departed grandmother. He left the conversation to read an incoming text, replied to it, and began talking about the text rather than Grandma. His wife was crestfallen that he wasn’t listening to her heartfelt grief. This man appeared to adore his wife, and did not intend to be hurtful. But he was.

Togetherness interruptus is bad for all of us. Be here now.

10 Awesome Gmail Hacks That Make Life Easier

These top-secret ninja moves will help you take control of your inbox and become a Gmail expert. I’ll show you how to save time, avoid mistakes, and add a bit of style to your inbox. Read on, grasshopper.


Have you ever pressed send only to regret it moments later because of a misspelled word, a forgotten attachment, or something communicated in the heat of the moment? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. But, some of us know this hack that allows us a few precious moments to recall an email after it’s been sent.

Go to your email settings by clicking on the gear in the upper right of the inbox. Now click on Labs. Now scroll down to Undo Send and enable it. Save your changes at the bottom of the screen.

Now go back to your email settings by clicking on the gear in the upper right of the inbox. Click on General. Scroll down to Undo Send and toggle the time limit to something you think works best for you. Save your changes.

Now, when you send an email, you’ll have up to 10, 20 or 30 seconds to recall it before it’s released into the wild.


Some messages are too important to be lost in a crowded inbox. That’s where the Gmail stars come in. Most people know that you can click the star next to a message to flag it. But, I’ll show you how to unlock a whole bunch of options.

Go to your email settings by clicking on the gear in the upper right of the inbox. Under the General tab, scroll down and click on Stars.

You can drag stars from the bottom line to the top to make them active. Save your changes at the bottom of the page. You could use question marks for emails that need clarification, red stars for problems, gold stars for good news, etc.


Are you stalking your inbox? Do you check every five minutes just because somebody, might have sent you something, that requires your immediate attention? Well, relax and let Gmail do the work by enabling the Unread Message Icon lab.

Go to your email settings by clicking on the gear in the upper right of the inbox. Now click on Labs. Now scroll down to Unread Message Icon and enable it. Save your changes at the bottom of the screen. And…. boom! The number of unread emails will show in your browser tab.


Looking for something? There are lots of ways to narrow down your search and make it easier to find a specific message. You could use special search terms and advanced operators if you know how to do that sort of thing, or you could try this method.

Click on the drop-down arrow in the far right corner of the search box. Now select your variables, and go!


Gmail Themes can make your standard inbox look spectacular. To try out themes, go to the gear in the upper right corner of your inbox and choose Themes. Click on a theme icon to make it live. Easy!

You can also choose a custom theme which allows you to upload your own background picture, and choose between a light or dark-colored themes. Your theme will look the same from every computer, so you’ll know your logged in to the right account at all times.


Have you ever had the same question asked over and over again? Have you ever had the same question asked over and over again? Just a little joke, read on.

Parents that want the details of an upcoming field trip, marketing inquiries or sales pitches, or maybe just one of your thousands of loyal fans seeking an autographed picture? No matter what the topic, canned responses can make it quick and easy to send a thoughtful response with the click of a button.

Go to your email settings by clicking on the gear in the upper right of the inbox. Now click on Labs. Now scroll down to Canned Responses and enable it. Save your changes at the bottom of the screen.

If you start a new message (or respond to a message), you can click on the arrow in the lower right of the compose new message window to see the Canned Response menu.

From here, you can create a new canned response and label it for future use. Once you have created a canned response, you can use it to save you time when responding to common inquiries.


Have you ever copied and pasted text into an email? If so, you know that Gmail keeps all the original formatting. Size, font, color, links, etc. You’ll be glad to know that with the click of a button you can remove the formatting and convert the message to plain text.


Did you know you can skip the insert photo button when composing an email? Gmail allows you to drag and drop photos from your desktop directly into the compose window. Also, you can copy and paste directly from the web. Seriously.


Gmail addresses can be modified with periods and + signs. So, if I send an email to grasshopper@ninja.edu, it’s the same as grass.hopper@ninja.edu, or grasshopper+parentcontact@ninjas.edu Cool, right? The email goes to the same destination regardless of the dots and plus sign.

Why is this something you should care about? It gives you the ability to filter email addressed to those specific addresses. For example, let’s say I give out teacher+parents@school.edu as my email address during open house night. Later in the school year, I can apply a filter and a label that will pick out emails sent to that specific address and treat them differently than other emails. If you’re confused about this, don’t worry. It’s black belt stuff that only Gmail nerds will truly appreciate.


Filters help you to handle an email in specific ways before it even hits your inbox. You can archive, delete, or label incoming messages and make Gmail do all the heavy lifting. Stay close and watch carefully.

Start by choosing the type of message that you want to filter. For this example, we’ll filter all my incoming messages from Education Week. A fine magazine for sure, but there are an awful lot of emails clogging up my inbox at the moment. Let’s move them all into their own folder and avoid taking up valuable Inbox real estate.

Step 1 – Open an email from Education Week and click the drop-down arrow on the right. Choose “Filter messages like this” from the menu.

Step 2 – Create a filter with this search by clicking on the link in the lower right corner.

Step 3 – Select Skip the Inbox and Apply the label. Then choose New label…

Step 4 – Give the new label a name and click Create

Step 5 – Be sure to select “Also apply filter to all matching conversations” and then click the Create Filter button.

Your filter is now active! All my Education Week emails will now end up labeled and waiting in my Gmail archive. They are available, but no longer cluttering my inbox. That’s it!

Please share this resource with your friends, family, co-workers, and even that strange guy in the parking lot. As always, look for me at K12Ninja.com

Backroom Move Strips 'Backdoor' NSA Spying Ban From Spending Bill

Congressional leaders have quietly deleted a measure meant to stop the National Security Agency’s “backdoor” surveillance of American communications from a major spending bill.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in June to ban the NSA from searching for Americans’ communications in surveillance collected while targeting foreigners. But the omnibus spending package unveiled Tuesday night — a piece of legislation that must pass to avoid a government showdown — chucks that NSA safeguard.

“I’m watching the will of the people be subverted. Our representative democracy has been short-circuited with this omnibus,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.), a Republican who co-sponsored the original NSA reform measure with Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.).

In place of the backdoor surveillance ban is language that states the NSA must not “target” American citizens’ content for surveillance. But the agency’s highly specific definition of targeting would still allow it to collect and search Americans’ emails as long as they are sent abroad.

“It is a complete placebo. It is restatement of existing law,” said Massie. “I’m almost embarrassed that they put it in the bill, because it does absolutely nothing.”

Part continuing resolution and part omnibus, the so-called cromnibus incorporates the defense appropriations act the Massie amendment was attached to and was designed by House and Senate leadership. That includes House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Massie previously told HuffPost that McCarthy wrote a slanted description of his amendment that was distributed in the House cloakroom before the June vote. The leadership also includes Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who represents thousands of NSA employees.

Massie said he didn’t know who blocked the NSA reform.

House leadership and Senate appropriations spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Massie-Lofgren amendment passed the House on a 293-123 vote in June, with majority support from members of both parties. Its quiet death underscores the obstacles to surveillance reform in the face of deep opposition from intelligence agencies. A Senate NSA reform bill sponsored by Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) died in November when it got 58 votes, two short of the number needed to end debate under Senate rules.

Massie and Lofgren aren’t giving up on NSA reform, however. They introduced legislation with Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R- Wis.) on Wednesday that would prevent the government from ordering software companies to insert surveillance “backdoors” in their products. A similar provision was included in the original Massie-Lofgren amendment passed in June.

Massie said the bill won’t pass in the waning hours of this Congress, but he has hopes for next year.

“A lot of Republican freshmen … are going to be really good on this issue,” he predicted.

How to Build a Holy Smart City

Picture an ancient city full of intricately carved stone temples, where millions of pilgrims and ascetics come to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganges, as Hindus have done for hundreds of generations. Monks wearing saffron robes, or even nothing at all, who have dedicated their lives to simplicity and sacrificed comfort and materialism in search of a higher knowledge. Now, imagine that the holy water of the Ganges is being monitored by electronic sensors to detect pollution levels, the lights illuminating the streets and houses of this city are fitted with motion sensors and calibrated to save energy, and the amount of pilgrims visiting each day is fed through an algorithm to adjust train schedules and ensure that buses and trains are neither overcrowded nor empty. All of these connected to a central nervous system. A holy smart city.

This may seem crazy, but the idea is not so far from reality these days. Varanasi, India’s holiest city located on the Ganges River, is part of an ambitious plan set forth by India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, to build 100 “smart cities.” The list also includes Amritsar — the historical and symbolic heart of Sikhism — Agra — the home of the Taj Mahal, as well as several completely new cities built from scratch. These cities will marry information technology with urban planning and infrastructure to create a data-driven model of city management in the hope of creating more efficient cities with better living conditions.

On his high profile tour full of public appearances and meetings with world leaders, Modi has been gathering support for this vision. In Tokyo, he initiated a partnership between Kyoto — perhaps Japan’s cultural capital — and Varanasi. In Washington, Barack Obama accepted his offer “for U.S. Industry to be the lead partner to develop smart cities in Ajmer (Rajasthan), Visakhapatnam (Andra Pradesh), and Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh).”

“The spectacle of the sadhu with a smartphone aside, what does this mean? The Kumbh Mela itself is a microcosm of India: tradition collides with modernity, ritual and technology coexist, poverty and luxury are separated by a few yards.”

This last city, Allahabad, particularly stands out to me as one of India’s most sacred sites, at the intersection of the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers, and the location of the world’s largest pilgrimage: the Kumbh Mela. Last year, I travelled to the Kumbh Mela as part of an interdisciplinary research team of students and professors from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, Business School, Public Health School, and College of Arts and Science. We sought to analyze and document the pilgrimage as over 65 million people camped just outside Allahabad on the banks of the Ganges for just over a month, creating an entire pop-up city that for a few days became the world’s largest city.

Some of us were scholars of religion and history, eager to see the rituals and the spectacle of the camps of Naga Babas — ascetics who spend their years meditating and even eschew wearing clothes. Others, including myself, were interested in the economics, politics, and logistics of building a city to house tens of millions of pilgrims in just over a month. Our team included data scientists, intent on creating a “big data” archive to model how crowds of people interacted and moved around the city, landscape architects and environmentalists who analyzed soil and water samples to track pollution levels, and myself, an urban planner intent on cataloging and geotagging the thousands of digital photographs and videos our team compiled.

We were not alone: this was the first time in the centuries-long history of the Kumbh where smartphones were commonplace. Pilgrims, tourists and journalists posted their experience in real-time via blog entries, tweets, Instagrams and Facebook posts.

Even Google took notice, updating its satellite imagery with high-resolution views of the tents, pontoon bridges and modular street grid that captured this pop-up city as the planets aligned on the holiest day of the pilgrimage. In anticipation of the next Kumbh Mela, the MIT Media Lab and a coalition of startups are collaborating with Ratan Tata, one of India’s most influential industrialists, to “identify 50 areas where technology can be used for solutions to probable challenges during the [next] Kumbh Mela.”

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