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.

Activist Who Fought Housing Discrimination Is Now Homeless, And The Internet Is Here To Help

A woman who fought tirelessly to ensure everyone has equal access to housing now has nowhere to call home.

Dorothy “Dottie” Mulkey’s house was filled with donations to charitable organizations when it caught fire on Dec. 14. Mulkey — the plaintiff in the Reitman vs. Mulkey case that challenged and defeated housing discrimination in California in 1967 — was at church at the time of the fire, and lost most of the belongings inside her Santa Ana, California, home.

Now, a Crowdrise page focused on helping Mulkey get back into her house by raising $20,000 is garnering support from those hoping to help. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than $2,100 had been raised.

Mulkey, 74, told the Orange County Register her home insurance had expired last August, and she’d wanted to wait and research new policies before buying a new one. She planned on getting new insurance for the home — a three-bedroom she purchased in 1970 — by the end of the year.

“The fire didn’t wait for that,” Mulkey, who has been staying at a friend’s house, told the news outlet. “For 40 years I had paid insurance. When I needed it, it had lapsed.”

Support Mulkey by visiting the Crowdrise page or using the widget below.

Fundraising Websites – Crowdrise

The fire had started due to an electrical malfunction involving a surge protector used to power Mulkey’s kitchen appliances. Smoke and water damage deemed the house uninhabitable.

During the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, segregated housing patterns were widespread throughout the U.S. housing market. Even while a growing number of black and Hispanic Americans fought and died in U.S. military operations in Vietnam, their families faced challenges finding homes for rent or purchase in certain residential areas because of their skin color.

In the landmark case of Reitman vs. Mulkey, Mulkey and her husband argued that Reitman refused to rent them an apartment because of their race. The case — which went to the Supreme Court and was decided in favor of Mulkey and her husband — set a legal precedent in California and helped end housing discrimination throughout the state.

The Crowdrise page for Mulkey was set up by Eli Reyna, who met Mulkey while working for the Orange County Human Relations Commission. He told the Orange County Register that he tried to find some sort of program that could help someone in Mulkey’s situation, but there was nothing.

“It was very frustrating,” Reyna said. “So I just decided to make a video to raise some awareness and maybe help raise some money.”

Despite her circumstances, Mulkey — who said she’s fortunate to not have been at home during the fire because “it would have been devastating” — told the Orange County Register she’s keeping her head held high.

“I know I should be in despair, but I’m not because I was not in that burning house,” Mukley said. “That gives me joy … The sun’s going to shine tomorrow, joy or no joy. I know this house is going to be restored. I know that, and for that reason I can’t be down.”

Like Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter

How random is a random playlist?

Does your music player’s ‘random’ button actually do what it says?

Bringing Holograms Into View

By Joni Blecher
Joni Blecher is a freelance writer who has spent her career covering tech and a myriad of lifestyle topics. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring the food scene in Portland, Oregon.

Microsoft made a splash last month when it unveiled a concept that, until now, we’ve only seen in the movies: glasses that project interactive holographic images onto the real world. Dubbed “HoloLens,” these wireless glasses allow the wearer to interact with three-dimensional images. They can be used to learn how to make household repairs, build prototypes in mid-air, and even take a virtual walk on Mars. In the same week, Google shut down its sci-fi-inspired Google Glass Explorer program and announced it was time for a reboot, which raises the question: Is the time right for HoloLens? Can it succeed where Google Glass failed?

There are many reasons Google Glass, in its current iteration, didn’t succeed. It had gone to market before it was ready, and essentially the company asked consumers to pay $1,500 to beta test the product. Its functionality was limited. Google Glass pairs with a smartphone to keep users connected to email and Google apps and allows them take photos and videos — which raised many privacy and copyright concerns. (They were even banned from movie theaters.) And despite making an appearance on a walk down a fashion runway, the design was reminiscent of something a cyborg might wear.

Google Glass tried to be fashionable, but the product was plagued by privacy concerns.

That said, Google Glass didn’t completely fail. Google’s Glass at Work program is still operating with 10 certified partners, many of them in the medical field. These companies are creating apps that use Google Glass for live surgery demonstrations, fast access to patient medical records, and workflow automation.

HoloLens and Google Glass are entirely different technologies. HoloLens is part of the Windows 10 computing platform and has an onboard CPU, GPU, and HPU (holographic processing unit). The aim of HoloLens is to allow those who wear it to interact with projected images and their surrounding environment.

Microsoft’s HoloLens projects three-dimensional images onto the real world.

Like Google Glass, the HoloLens glasses are wireless, so you can walk around a room wearing them without being tethered. The difference between the two designs is that HoloLens has two lenses and resembles motorcycle goggles, while Google Glass is primarily the top half of an eyeglass frame with a tiny clear monitor. When you wear either, you can still see the surrounding environment. In fact, HoloLens accommodates furniture and other objects in the room when projecting holograms. For example, if you’re using a building app, it will project an image of a building on top of the ottoman in the room.

It’s the HoloLens apps that are the stuff of science fiction. There’s a design studio where you can assemble a prototype by placing holographic objects together and then print it on a 3D printer. Microsoft has been working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on an app for the Mars rovers. Scientists can don HoloLens and interact with the images taken from Mars in a 3D environment. There’s also a building-block app reminiscent of Minecraft that’s used to create buildings and blow up walls by tapping on them (aka AirTap).

One of the more practical demos is using HoloNotes, an app integrated with Skype, to install a light switch. While wearing HoloLens, place a Skype call to someone who walks you through installing the light switch. They see what you see on their tablet and talk you through what you need to do and draw arrows on the tablet screen that appear on the wall in front of you. No more saying, “Wait, is it the wire on the right or the left?”

HoloLens accommodates furniture and other objects in the room when projecting holograms.

The apps offer a glimpse at HoloLens’ potential. HoloLens provides an active encounter while Google Glass offers a passive experience. There are problems both solutions can solve. For example, there’s a time when a doctor may want to wear Google Glass to record a surgery as a teaching tool. In a similar scenario, first responders could use HoloLens (and the HoloNotes app) to get instructions from a doctor on how to perform life-saving treatments in the field.

Although HoloLens has exhibited some draw-dropping demonstrations, that doesn’t mean it will be an overnight success when it becomes available with Windows 10. When it comes to introducing a new technology, it typically takes at least three shipping versions before the majority of the bugs are under control. It will also depend on the apps developed and how Microsoft supports its developer community. It’s ultimately the apps that will drive adoption. That said, HoloLens, if rolled out correctly, has far more potential to change the way we interact with technology than Google Glass.

Visit XPRIZE at xprize.org, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and get our Newsletter to stay informed.

YouTube To Launch Subscription Model: Report

(Reuters) – Google Inc is set to launch a subscription model for YouTube in a few months, CNBC quoted Robert Kyncl, the online video service’s head of content and business operations as saying at the Code/Media conference.
The company was “fine-tuning the experience”, Kyncl said at the conference in California. (http://cnb.cx/1zOXElH)
YouTube has been exploring a paid, ad-free version of its service for some time. The company launched a pilot program in May 2013 that allowed individual content creators to charge consumers a subscription fee to access a particular “channel” of videos.
The plan would represent a significant change for the world’s No. 1 online video, whose free videos, often accompanied by short commercials, attract more than 1 billion users a month.

(Reporting by Abhirup Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

'Revenge Porn' Operator Hunter Moore To Plead Guilty

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The operator of a “revenge porn” website who posted stolen nude photos online has agreed to plead guilty to hacking and identity theft, according to court papers filed Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court.

Hunter Moore, 28, of Woodland, faces a sentence of two to seven years in federal prison under the agreement, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.

Moore was dubbed the “most hated man on the Internet” for posting explicit photos and information about the people portrayed in them on his now-defunct site, IsAnyoneUp.com.

The term “revenge porn” was coined because many of the images were posted by jilted lovers to get even with former partners.

Prosecutors said Moore also sought out racy content himself, enlisting a hacker to dig up nude photos from email accounts.

Photos posted between 2010 and 2012 included an “American Idol” finalist, the daughter of a major Republican donor and a woman in a wheelchair, according to a 2012 article in Rolling Stone magazine.

Moore acknowledged in the agreement that he paid Charles Evens to hack email accounts and steal photos.

Evens, 26, of Los Angeles, pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial next month. He refused to comment when contacted Wednesday.

Moore is due in court Feb. 25, although Mrozek said sentencing could be postponed until March.

Moore’s lawyer did not immediately return a call for comment.

Senate: 'Tread Carefully' Before Regulating Internet of Things

I was not surprised to learn that the Senate is looking into the Internet of Things. Senators are concerned about safety, privacy and security issues now that the tech industry is focusing on ways to connect devices to the Internet and to each other.

There are just over 7 billion people on the planet, and so far about 3 billion are connected to the Internet. But that’s nothing compared with the number of devices in the world. Eventually the Internet of Things, or IoT, could connect trillions of them. Some will be industrial devices, but many will be in our homes, in our cars and even on our bodies.

So IoT security isn’t just about keeping machines safe and secure; it’s also about protecting the privacy, security and even health and safety of the people who use them.

I wear a smartwatch that tracks my sleep, my footsteps, my heart rate and my estimated calorie consumption. The watch is connected by Bluetooth to my phone, and my phone is connected to the Internet, which means that all of that very personal data about me is being stored in the cloud.

While I’m willing to admit publicly that I only got six hours of sleep last night, I can easily see why a lot of people wouldn’t want to share their average pulse rate or other health and fitness data with the public or the insurance industry. And it’s only a matter of time before these devices start recording our blood pressure, our blood sugar and even more vital data.

There are already lots of homes in my neighborhood with Web-connected door locks, thermostats and garage door openers. I even have a coffee pot that connects to Wi-Fi.

As he opened a hearing on the matter Wednesday, John Thune (R-South Dakota), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, offered several more examples: a bed with smart fabric and sensors that track your sleep habits, an automated sprinkler system that saves water by using real-time weather data and a Web-enabled toothbrush that tracks the user’s brushing habits to improve oral hygiene.

Like his colleagues, Sen. Thune expressed concern about how these connected “things” can collect sensitive personal and business data that could impact privacy. But he encouraged policy makers to “tread carefully and thoughtfully before we consider stepping in with a ‘government knows best’ mentality that could halt innovation and growth.”

Disabling the Breaks

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) reminded the committee of a recent 60 Minutes segment where correspondent Leslie Stahl drove a car through a parking lot only to have a remote hacker (in this case a government security expert) turn on her windshield wipers, honk her horn and then disable her breaks as she attempted to stop the car. Nelson also warned about the danger of hacking into insulin pumps to cause an overdose or take over a pacemaker to cause a heart attack.

“It’s not the stuff of TV drama; it’s the real threats to our nation’s cybersecurity but also to our physical safety,” he said.

Industry Responds

One of the witnesses, Doug Davis, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Intel’s Internet of Things Group, told me in an interview that Intel is “integrating more and more security technologies into the solutions we’re proving to our customers, the companies building these devices.”

He said that security is a “foundational capability” with many many layers, “so we build it into our hardware, into the software we provide,” adding that Intel also has technologies that device makers can use to encrypt and protect data that is transmitted by connected devices.

But Justin Brookman, Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Consumer Privacy Project, raised several concerns, including “poor data security practices, unexpected or unwanted data collection, a loss of control over our own devices and potential government abuse of these technologies.”

“Even at this early stage we’ve seen all sorts of IoT devices be vulnerable to attack,” including home alarm systems, baby monitors, smart refrigerators, medical devices, routers and thermostats, he said.

Dangers of Overregulation

But the risks of the IoT shouldn’t prompt the government to overregulate, said Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. “We should avoid basing our policy interventions on hypothetical worst case scenarios or else best case scenarios will never come about.”

Personally, I’m excited about the Internet of Things as long as those things can serve our needs without spying on us or making us vulnerable to potential life-threatening hack attack.

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News.

Alien Star Buzzed Our Solar System 70,000 Years Ago, New Research Shows

It’s being called a very close shave, at least in astronomical terms: new research indicates that 70,000 years ago a dim star passed within a mere 8 trillion kilometers (5 trillion miles) of our solar system.

That’s about one-fifth the distance from the solar system to Proxima Centauri, the star that is currently our system’s closest stellar neighbor, and the closest that any star has ever come to our system.


(Story continues below image.)

Artist’s conception of Scholz’s star and its brown dwarf companion (foreground) during its flyby of the solar system 70,000 years ago. The sun is seen at the left, in the background. The pair is now about 20 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros.

The small red dwarf star was discovered in 2013 by German astronomer Ralf-Dieter Scholz, according to a written statement released by the University of Rochester. A red dwarf with a mass about 8 percent that of the sun, “Scholz’s star” isn’t the most prepossessing star in the cosmos. But when astronomers noticed that the star and its even less massive brown-dwarf companion were moving very slowly across the sky, they took notice.

“Most stars this nearby show much larger tangential motion,” Dr. Eric Mamajek, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the university and the lead author of a paper describing the research, said in the statement. “The small tangential motion and proximity initially indicated that the star was most likely either moving towards a future close encounter with the solar system, or it had ‘recently’ come close to the solar system and was moving away.”

To figure out whether the star was coming or going, a team of astronomers made detailed measurements using telescopes in South Africa and Chile, according to the statement. Sure enough, the data suggested that the star was moving away from our solar system. The scientists traced the trajectory back in time, and their models pinpointed the distance and date of the close shave.

Scholz’s star is almost certain to have passed through the “outer Oort Cloud,” a comet-filled region of space at the edge of the solar system. But the star is believed to have had a negligible effect on the comets there.

(Story continues below image.)

This artist’s concept puts huge solar system distances in perspective. The scale bar is measured in astronomical units (AU), with each set distance beyond 1 AU representing 10 times the previous distance. Each AU is equal to the distance from the sun to the Earth. Scholz’s star passed by Earth at a distance of about 52,000 AU, according to the new resarch.

“There are trillions of comets in the Oort cloud and likely some of them were perturbed by this object,” Mamajek told BBC News. “But so far it seems unlikely that this star actually triggered a significant ‘comet shower’.”

The paper was published Feb. 12, 2015 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Twitter Helped This 'Harry Potter' Fan Get A Touching Letter From J.K. Rowling

Every “Harry Potter” fan wants a letter from Hogwarts. Johnnie Blue of Scotland got something even better.

Johnnie is a major fan of the book series and shows off his Potterhead pride by attending themed events. He has also visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London that’s filled with props and costumes from the films.

This was amazing! #HarryPotterBookNight @WStonesArgyleST pic.twitter.com/nbMJX4NRbJ

— johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) February 5, 2015

Sitting by the Knight Bus… @wbstudiotour pic.twitter.com/3KapsuraWX

— johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) October 17, 2014

The Hagrid’s hut set @wbstudiotour is so detailed. You can really imagine Hagrid living there! #HarryPotter pic.twitter.com/X6DdKP8eo8

— johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) December 6, 2014

The castle looked so amazing in the snow! #HogwartsInTheSnow pic.twitter.com/WTQIwE4HZr

— johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) November 15, 2014

In the past, he’s gotten replies from author J.K. Rowling on Twitter and even met her at a signing for “The Silkworm,” a book she wrote under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. When they met, she had recognized him from his tweets.

.@Johnnie_Rowling Let’s face it, that’s better than mine.

— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 16, 2014

.@Johnnie_Rowling Calling me Bob or calling Bob Bob? Bob is fine with being called Bob, though I usually call him Rob.

— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 5, 2015

So much derp pic.twitter.com/KxNTHvStnR

— johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) January 11, 2015

According to BuzzFeed, Johnnie gave Rowling a notebook at the signing with a letter inside about the impact she had on his life. The author responded in true “Harry Potter” fashion — a letter in an envelope with a Chamber of Secrets stamp.

This is the gift I’m giving J.K. Rowling when I meet her next Friday! The owl is by @lovelikeatoms! pic.twitter.com/xs6pBSs05G

— johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) July 8, 2014

The parts of my letter from Jo that I can share… pic.twitter.com/lY4wMyFDQz

— johnnie (@Johnnie_Rowling) August 25, 2014

In the letter, Rowling thanks Johnnie for the gift and praises him for overcoming his struggles with being bullied.

“I freely confess that I loathe bullying and the way it is still so often ‘handled’ in schools. Your experience is shocking and disturbing and that you have turned out to be a compassionate, moral, highly motivated person is high testimony to your courage. Gryffindor for you, my lad….”

She ends the letter with a promise to continue their friendship the way it started.

“I’m sure we’ll see each other again. In the meantime, I’ll watch out for you on Twitter.”

To read the letter in its entirety, head over to BuzzFeed.

With Rowling around, the magic never ends.

Follow HuffPost Teen on Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Pheed |

6 Truths I Learned My First Year on Facebook

I was a decade late to the party. This month, as Facebook turns 11, I am celebrating year one on the site. I’ve learned a lot – and not just from those Buzzfeed quizzes that turn up on my Newsfeed. Herewith, a few truths I’ve gleaned from my first year on Facebook.

1. Time has no meaning

I always thought time was a linear function. Yet, someone’s anniversary dinner from June of 2010 will suddenly appear on my Newsfeed. How does this happen?

The Facebook algorithm has figured out how to distort our conception of time. I assume this is intentional. When a quick check-in turns into minutes, then hours, of scrolling through posts and articles, it’s best to be deluded about how much time you just wasted.

2. Some people must do nothing at work

I have a few friends who post a lot. Which is totally fine, except I know these people have “real” jobs. When do they find the time?

Back when I used to have a real job, I remember walking in or out of my office and seeing my assistant make furtive moves to minimize an open application on her screen. I now know what that was. I also have an inkling of why some work assignments took longer for her to complete.

3. People really do love cats

Need I say more?

4. The uncurated life is not worth living

Facebook is about offering up a perfectly curated life. Some people are amazing at this: artists, marketing professionals, people who work at government jobs with little supervision.

Not long ago, a New York Times article “Facebook’s Last Taboo:The Unhappy Marriage” noted that divorce is the unmentionable of the site. I couldn’t agree more. Facebook is for posting the best version of yourself. Moreover, it’s an escape. If we want depressing stories, we can watch the six o’clock news. At least I think we can; most of my news comes from Facebook so I have no idea if TV news still exists. Regardless, I love that I get the top stories of the day carefully curated for me by my friends, as well as funny posts, pop culture clips, and the previously mentioned quizzes.

5. The “Like” button is fraught

I had heard a lot about the lure of the “like,” and how getting that little thumbs up could be addictive. It’s true; the only thing worse than checking your latest post to see how many “likes” you have is worrying whether your friends who didn’t “like” it actually didn’t like it.

Of course, giving “likes” is just as complicated. Sometimes it feels as though you’re straddling the thin line between sycophancy and snubbing. If you “like” every post, are you fawning too much? Conversely, if you don’t “like” something, are you signaling indifference? Or worse, could it be mistaken for passive aggressive non-liking?

For example, if I don’t press the button for someone’s post about their three-book deal with HarperCollins, or their gorgeous child accepting his student of the year prize, could it be misconstrued as willful ignorance—as if I am consciously ignoring their success? What happens if you simply stayed off Facebook for a day or two and missed some posts? (FYI, I’m sure that’s what happened.) This is the problem with online social interaction: it’s not always easy to convey, or discern, real intention.

I try to be a judicious liker, acknowledging people but trying not to litter newsfeeds with my own “likes.” As for my own posts, I’ve become more appreciative of the “likes” I receive, and less upset by those I don’t—I’m sure the latter people just missed my post in their Newsfeed, right?

6. Facebook screws with our emotions

A few years ago, Facebook played its own version of Big Brother and manipulated the types of posts people received in their newsfeeds. The goal was to see how a user’s state of mind affected his subsequent posts. When word of this “experiment” got out, Facebook was forced to apologize for toying with human emotions.

I may be new to this, but I didn’t need a corporate admission to realize that Facebook screws with our emotions. All those pictures and posts of perfectly curated lives (see above) can’t help but make you feel, at times, that you’re missing out, left behind, or totally on the wrong track.

A year ago when I joined Facebook, I wondered, Will it make me happier? I’ve learned that the inputs and outcomes of this large-scale social experiment vary day by day. I’ve decided though, I’m sticking with it—because there’s another way Facebook screws with my emotions. It’s with the smiling faces of friends who have moved away or I’ve lost touch with; or the stunning work of art or brilliant piece of writing posted by a friend; or the picture of a grade school girlfriend, arms around her child who is the same age we were when we first met. These things make up for all the cats and quizzes, and they’re the things that truly warrant a virtual thumbs up.

10 best medical apps released in January

The 10 best medical apps released in January

The post 10 best medical apps released in January appeared first on iMedicalApps.

Your Phone Is Germier Than You Could Ever Imagine

In an epic battle of Phone vs. Toilet, BuzzFeedBlue investigates which surface is dirtier — the one we tap on to do business or the one we sit on to do business.

Dr. William DePaolo, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California in the Molecular Microbiology and Immunology department, compared testing swabs taken from the screens of BuzzFeed employees phones for bacteria and swabs collected from a toilet. The results were kind of crappy (sorry): The toilet contained about three different kinds of bacteria and fungal species, while the cell phone contained, on average, 10 to 12 kinds of bacteria and fungal species.

This is not entirely surprising: Our phones go everywhere with us, including the bathroom, meaning they encounter far more flora than the fixed-in-place toilet. What’s more — and perhaps more relevant — toilets, particularly the corporate office toilet used in this experiment — are cleaned regularly. Phones? Well, that’s up to the individual user. (And, in truth, we find fault in this study design — for a true understanding of phone vs. toilet, DePaolo and team would have had to swab each phone owner’s individual toilet, to accommodate hygiene differences.)

But we digress. If you still feel like crawling into a (germ-free) hole, know that there are ways to de-germ your phone. (Whatever you do, don’t use your kitchen sponge.)

Start by removing your phone case from the phone and clean it with soap and water. Don’t put it back on the phone until it’s dry. As for your actual phone, CNET suggests rubbing a dry (unused) toothbrush around the device’s small ports and crevices to remove tiny pieces of debris and lint. You might also consider investing in a pack of pre-made electronic wipes; be sure to stay away from liquid cleaning products. Always power down your device before you begin to sanitize, and use a clean cloth to wipe down your gadget when your finished.

(H/t: BuzzFeed)

Silence Is a Blinking Cursor

We didn’t live in the same city. We didn’t even live on the same side of the country. Aside from the first six months when we both lived in Massachusetts, the entire decade of our friendship had been on the Internet.

For over 10 years, Ray and I talked almost every morning. We would catch up about what was new, or what our plans were for the day. Our conversations often broke off into sharing new music, or the books we’d been reading. If we had time, we would venture into deeper philosophical discussions. Other days, we only had a few minutes to complain about the weather before logging off and leaving the house. Sometimes we would talk on the phone, but the vast majority of our conversations were via instant messenger.

Even though we had thousands of miles between us, we spent better quality time together than friends who live in the same city. He would tell me about his treks through nature. He offered encouragement as I started my writing career. We played Scrabble and wrote poetry together. He affectionately nicknamed me “Katers.”

There is a constant criticism that suggests social media is making us depressed or anti-social. Is it because we are drawn in to our digital lives when there’s a lull in our “real” lives, or interrupted during in-person conversations by a sudden chime? Of course there are some who take their device usage to an obnoxious extreme, but weren’t there people who behaved in obnoxious extremes before the digital age?

The Internet is a place, just as real as your favorite coffee shop or local bar, where we can stop by and catch up with friends as often or infrequently as we want. We can use social media to make arrangements to meet in real life, or simply hang out online. Life can be lonely, but the way we connect with people is evolving.

Sometimes, Ray and I would talk about what we would do if we were together in person. But I don’t know what it would have been like if Ray and I lived in the same city. One of the things that made our friendship special was the fact that we could share our thoughts without being self-conscious. Since we weren’t facing each other, there was no sting of shame when the other person frowned or flinched at what you said. Not that we didn’t disagree, we did, but our keyboards kept disagreements conversational. The distance is one of the things that kept us close.

I never felt like I needed to justify our friendship until he died.

I learned about his passing the same way we spent all our time together: digitally. I was sitting at work, and received a text message from him. But then when I unlocked my phone, I read―

“Hi, this is Ray’s brother. Is this Katie?”

I knew immediately that something was wrong.

The distance between us and the mode of our communication suddenly felt cheap, not as meaningful as other friendships in real life. At least, that’s how I felt as I sunk into grief.

That’s the thing about having a digital friendship, you trust that they are always there. You can send them a message, and even if they don’t respond right away, you know they received it. They will respond. They exist. They are conducting their lives, and believing in you.

That was the hardest thing about coming to terms with Ray’s death ― he wasn’t just not here, he wasn’t there either.

I didn’t have the money to fly across the country for his funeral ― the same reason I hadn’t bought a ticket to Seattle to visit while he was alive. But his brother found a solution: He set up a webcam so I could attend virtually. I put on a dress and slipped on a bracelet that Ray had made me. Through the webcam’s blurred connection, I could see the flowers that I had sent the funeral home next to the casket.

I was there.

Maybe it’s not so hard to imagine “virtual funerals” becoming more common. Already I’ve seen once-active Facebook profiles become memorials, places for friends to grieve and remember the good times. Coping with loss is one of the things that makes us human, and it can be really hard. We have to use whatever tools we have, virtual or in real life, to learn to live without the ones we lost.

What defined my friendship with Ray, and I dare say, what defines friendship is not the proximity between friends, but the impact of our interactions. These interactions―small gestures and chats and likes, all acts of sharing―are just as legitimate in cyberspace as they are in person. Their impact is still felt, even as the cursor blinks, with nothing more to say.

6 Adult Dating Apps Teens Are Using Too

By Polly Conway, Common Sense Media editor

Unless you’re single, you might not be familiar with dating apps such as Tinder, where users can quickly swipe through prospective dates. But it’s likely your teen knows all about these apps — even though they’re mostly designed for adults. According to the company’s own estimates, about seven percent of Tinder’s users are age 13 to 17.

Although adults use these apps both for casual hookups and for scouting out more long-term relationships, they’re risky for teens. For starters, although many of the apps aren’t intended for them, it’s easy for savvy teens to get around registration-related age restrictions. Secondly, adults can pose as teens and vice-versa. Location-sharing increases the potential for a real-life meeting; less dangerous but still troubling is the heavy emphasis on looks as a basis for judgment.

It’s possible that teens are only testing boundaries with these apps. Many are eager to be on the same wavelength as their 20-something counterparts, and the prospect of meeting someone outside their social circle is exciting. And with so much of their social life happening online, teens feel comfortable using apps to meet people. But these apps are not a safe way for them to explore dating.

If you learn your teen is using dating apps, take the opportunity to talk about using social media safely and responsibly — and discuss what’s out of bounds. Keep lines of communication open; talk to them about how they approach dating and relationships and how to create a healthy, fulfilling one — and note that they usually don’t start with a swipe.

Below are some of the adult dating apps that teens are using.

1. Skout.

This flirting app allows users to sign up as a teen or an adult. They’re then placed in the appropriate peer group, where they can post to a feed, comment on others’ posts, add pictures and chat. They’ll get notifications when other users near their geographic area join, and they can search other areas by cashing in points. They receive notifications when someone “checks” them out but must pay points to see who it is.

What parents need to know. If your teens are going to use a dating app, Skout is probably the safest choice, if only because it has a teens-only section that seems to be moderated reasonably well. However, ages aren’t verified, making it easy for a teen to say she’s older than 18 and an adult to say she’s younger.

2. Tinder.

Tinder is a photo and messaging dating app for browsing pictures of potential matches within a certain mile radius of the user’s location.

What parents need to know. You swipe right to “like” a photo or left to “pass.” If a person whose photo you “liked” swipes “like” on your photo, too, the app allows you to message each other. Meeting up (and possibly hooking up) is pretty much the goal.

3. Badoo. This adults-only app for online dating-style social networking boasts more than 200 million users worldwide. The app (and the companion desktop version) identifies the location of a user by tracking his or her device’s location and then matches pictures and profiles of potentially thousands of people the user could contact in the surrounding area.

What parents need to know. Badoo is definitely not for kids; its policy requests that no photos of anyone under 18 be posted. However, content isn’t moderated, and lots of sexual images show up as you browse.

4. Hot or Not. This app started as a website over 10 years ago and has gone through lots of iterations since. It currently exists as a location-based app that shows you the hottest — or most attractive per their rating system — people nearby.
What parents need to know. Users must first set up an account of their own, with photos — and must verify their identity with a working email address or a Facebook account and their mobile phones. The site says it will not accept a profile unless the user is 13 or older and that users 13 to 17 can’t chat or share photos with users older than 17 — but there’s no age-verification process.

5. MeetMe. MeetMe’s tagline, “Chat and Meet New People,” says it all. Although not marketed as a dating app, MeetMe does have a “Match” feature where users can “secretly admire” others, and its large user base means fast-paced communication and guaranteed attention. Users can chat with whomever’s online, as well as search locally, opening the door for potential trouble.

What parents need to know. First and last name, age, and ZIP code are requested at registration, or you can log in using a Facebook account. The app also asks permission to use location services on your teens’ mobile devices, meaning they can find the closest matches wherever they go.

5Omegle. One of the older, more established anonymous-chat apps, Omegle lets users start out anonymous, but they can (and do) share information such as names, phone numbers, and addresses.

What parents need to know. Although not an official hookup site, Omegle gives kids the opportunity to share personal information and potentially set up IRL (“in real life”) meetings with the people they’ve met through the app. Adding an “interest” to your profile also makes it possible to match like-minded people. Chat on Omegle often turns to sex very quickly, and it encourages users to “talk to strangers.”

Want more? Check out these related posts at Common Sense Media
15 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading Beyond Facebook
Snapchat and Other Messaging Apps That Let Teens Share (Iffy) Secrets
Alert! Digital Drama to Watch Out for This School Year

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org

These High-Tech Shirts And Pants Can Help Protect Kids With Autism

Many children with autism are prone to wandering away from their home or supervised space. While parents of these children face the daunting task of keeping tabs on them at all times, a GPS-equipped clothing line designed specifically for these families aims to help.

Nearly half the parents of children with autism said their youngster had tried to wander off or run away at least once after age 4, and most said the child was gone for “long enough to cause worry,” according to a 2012 study. Former CNN correspondent Lauren Thierry — whose teenage son, Liam, has autism — is stepping up to change these statistics.

ID Clothing shirt and leggings from the 2014 collection, both of which have a special pocket to hold a GPS device.

In 2014, Thierry founded Independence Day Clothing, which offers shirts and pants that can help track down a child in the event he or she goes missing.

“One out of every 68 babies born today is going to fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. We’re talking about 4.3 million people. I was shocked that someone else hadn’t come up with it,” Thierry said of her idea for clothes outfitted with tracking devices.

Unlike many other pieces of wearable tech, which are worn around the wrist or ankle, ID Clothing’s GPS units slip inside a soft pocket sewn into each garment. There aren’t any uncomfortable wires sewn into the apparel, either.

Currently, each GPS device measures 2 inches long and weighs less than an ounce. Thierry says an even smaller unit is on the horizon.

“The predator can’t see it. The fidgety kid can’t see it or feel it. It’s in a quilted compartment, and it leaves the parent with the ultimate decision-making of who needs to know my kid has a GPS sensor on them,” Thierry told The Huffington Post.

The GPS tracker slips right into ID’s clothes.

The shirts and pants are the same backward and forward, which makes it easier for children to dress themselves. Thierry said she made this a big priority after realizing she wouldn’t always be able to help her son in the morning.

Available on the company’s website, the clothing items range from $37.50 to $59.50. Currently, the GPS sensor is offered on a subscription basis: You get the device for free, but pay an activation fee of $69.95, plus $14.95 monthly.

Thierry told HuffPost that the subscription model got some pushback from parents, and she plans to replace it with a one-time charge, which has yet to be determined.

Kristina Chew, an online classics lecturer at Rutgers University who blogs about raising a son with autism, told HuffPost it’s key for the device be easy to wear and hard to detect.

“[Some] families have noted that [wearable] devices can be difficult for a child (especially one with sensory sensitivities, such as many children on the spectrum have) to wear, much less to wear for extended periods of time,” Chew wrote in an email.

“A technology that makes it possible for families to monitor the movements of a child who tends to wander (and who has no idea that she or he is lost) … could certainly be [useful],” she continued.

There have been a number of efforts to make ideas like this work.

Following the death of Avonte Oquendo, a teen with autism whose remains were discovered on a New York beach months after he disappeared from school, Senator Charles Schumer proposed a law that would finance tracking devices for children with autism. That bill has still not been passed by Congress.

Autism Speaks, an advocacy group, recently announced a $98,000 commitment to Project Lifesaver, a program that provides wrist and ankle tracking devices, in addition to training for first responders to better understand the needs of individuals with autism.

“When we think about wandering, it needs to be a multi-pronged approach,” Lisa Goring, executive vice president of programs and services for Autism Speaks, told HuffPost. “You need to back it up much further than GPS or the locating device. It needs to start with educating people with autism and their families.”

The challenge now is to get the clothing in the right hands. She recently met with Walmart to pitch the idea of a “starter kit,” which would have included a shirt and device for $80. Walmart, however, ultimately decided that the price tag seemed too high, Thierry said. Now, she’s working with the local government in Enfield, Connecticut, to establish a program for getting ID Clothing items to 300 students with special needs.

“GPSing in the clothes is going to become the norm,” Thierry said. “Hear me now, believe me later.”

Drone Rules

We have all seen news articles about the FAA’s notice of proposed rulemaking to govern the commercial use of drones in the U.S. The FAA’s own summary sheet is shorter and better-written than nearly all the articles, so take a look at their Summary of Proposed Changes.

First of all, I am surprised by just how conservative the FAA is being around the issue of pilotless flying aircraft. The category not only limits altitude (below 500 feet above ground level), speed (100 m.p.h.) and weight (25 kg), but more importantly bans operations over non-participating people (football games, unsuspecting crowds, downtowns, etc.). But the really interesting level of care comes from the requirement that the operator always be able to literally see the drone if needed, even if a visual observer is doing the observing for the moment. The operator really cannot be miles away under these rules, and furthermore the operator or visual observer can only care for one drone at a time.

This last rule eliminates the possibility of a commercial operator having a fleet of twenty drones, all overseen by one human supervisor, doing agricultural assay, bridge inspection, disaster mapping, or any other commercial operation you can imagine. The fundamental position implicit in the FAA’s rulemaking is that drones are really miniature airplanes that happen to have their pilots on the ground. They are not looking at drones as intelligent machines, but as the flying shell of an intelligent, remote pilot. As such, the drone cannot operate if there is poor visibility; the drone cannot operate if the ‘pilot’ cannot see it when needed, and the drone cannot share a pilot with other drones at the same time.

Ironically, as technology marches forth drones will become ever more intelligent; and with every advance, they actually become safer, in many cases, than the human pilots can ever be. If the visibility is near zero, it is the well-instrumented drone, with on-board sensor processing and control, that can fly at a disaster site and look for signs of human survivors. In such cases humans are nothing more than supervisors- not pilots at all- and under these circumstances, the “one drone per operator” policy is very much counterproductive and outdated.

So the rules are a good first step if we are to ease very gradually into the world of commercial drone operations: they will be matched one-to-one with operators, and will start out in unpopulated and controlled sites, where bridge inspection, agricultural assay and movie production are all possible applications. These rules are a serious problem for startups and heavyweights who have been dreaming of operations atop our nation’s major cities, and they will have to wait patiently until the first flush of drones prove or disprove their usefulness, reliability and worst-case characteristics in time for new rules in several more years. The FAA rules are incremental, and in this case that’s exactly the right thing to do.

6 Things You Need to Know Before Building a Mobile App

Mobile Applications – almost everyone you know has talked about building one, right? Mobile commerce and sales are growing exponentially and that’s all the more reason to get in on the action. However, building a successful application comes down to the type of service or product you offer, your audience, which platforms to consider, and your marketing strategy.

This article is going to take a look at a few things you need to know before switching the green light on towards your mobile app development efforts.

1. What Will It Cost?

This question is one of the most commonly asked questions regarding app development, and is the same as asking “what does a house cost?” Ultimately, there are different variables, features, and development processes to consider, and then it furtner varies from project to project.

If you are planning to build the app yourself or you have access to an in-house development team, the cost would depend on the amount of time you put into the project. If you can do this in your spare time, it will only cost you your time and skills. However, keep in mind that most professionally developed applications require a team-effort, usually consisting of a product manager, designer, developers, testers, and marketing experts.

The leading mobile app developer review company Clutch recently surveyed representatives from 12 leading mobile app development firms to determine cost ranges for building an iPhone app “and found that the median cost range is between $37,913 and $171,450, but could climb up to $500,000 or higher. The best way to find out where your app will fall in that range is to obtain price quotes from several development companies;” One of the 12 firms surveyed by Clutch was Digital Brand Group, and the CEO Jeremiah Jacks is a friend of mine. Something to keep in mind that Jeremiah mentioned is that “what you get from a lot of development companies is that they treat their customers from a kind of manufacturing standpoint, where they’re getting in a contract, they’re looking at a scope, and they’re just delivering on the scope. They’re not going any further beyond that.”

If you’re going to hire a mobile development company, then at least choose one where your money is going to count for something, and the vendor doesn’t look at you as just a number – you will need a partner. DBG has a good whitepaper on selecting a top mobile development company to help you decide.

Finally, innovative mobile application ideas can also be promoted on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter. In this way you may be able to raise funds externally before you have to spend money out of your own pocket. Make sure you have a killer pitch if y

Show more