Tuesday, 25 March 2014

LG's Smart Bulb Connects With Your Smartphone

LG has launched the Smart Bulb in Korea, a light bulb that connects with Android and iOS devices, providing several interesting features.
The 10W LED bulb will let you control lighting in the house with a smartphone, and it can also flash-alert when you get a phone call.

Other features include a security mode which makes it look like you're at home when you're away, as well as pulsating to the tune of music (but only on Android devices).
The bulbs should run for more than 10 years, provided you use them five hours a day, LG claims.
LG's Smart Bulb is not the only connected light bulb around. Recently, a company called AwoX announced a light bulb that can double as a Bluetooth speaker. We've also seen several Kickstarter projects to create a connected light bulb; the Wi-Fi enabled LIFX is one example.
The price for the LG Smart Bulb is 35,000 won ($32) in Korea; there's no word when the device might come to the U.S.

USC Is Offering a Google Glass Course for Journalism

OK, Glass, it's time to change journalism.
That will be the collective mindset of students taking "Glass Journalism," a new course slated for the fall semester at the University of Southern California, where students will be tasked with thinking up new ways for journalists to tell stories using augmented reality and Google Glass.
It's a first-of-its-kind class for USC, and web-journalism professor Robert Hernandez believes the class offers a rare opportunity for journalism to get ahead of a budding technology trend. Hernandez said journalists have been followers — not trailblazers — when using other technology like mobile and social media, but that the industry has a chance for a head start with Glass.

"As someone who hijacks technology for journalism, I want to be proactive about shaping what journalism will look like on this," said Hernandez, who worked most recently as director of development for The Seattle Times before joining USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2009. “This platform is so new, no one has defined what journalism looks like on there. It’s such an opportunity for the journalism industry to jump on there.”
Hernandez is opening the class to all students at the university, although he will approve each signup. He expects roughly 12 students will join the class, including students from a variety of different backgrounds and majors, such as design, computer engineering, public relations, and of course, journalism. The class is intended for the advancement of journalism, but is not limited to its disciples.
According to the syllabus, students will create apps for Google Glass that help enhance both storytelling and story consumption on the platform. Hernandez hopes to answer questions such as, what does long-form content look like on Glass? Or, how can readers create and watch stories using Glass?
They are difficult questions to answer, considering most Americans have never worn Google Glass, and very few people actually own a device (it's not yet commercially available.) Hernandez secured his device through an application to become a Glass Explorer with Google, and a few of his students have pairs of their own, which means the class should have roughly five in total.
Offering a class of this nature aligns with the Annenberg School's new strategy, which aims to provide more hands-on skills for students looking for jobs in communications and journalism, according to Ernest James Wilson III, the school's dean. When he took the role as dean in 2008, Wilson spent months traveling across the country, and asking prospective employers what skills they expected from USC communications and journalism graduates. He found that much of what was being taught needed to be updated to reflect emerging technologies and the need for more holistic skill sets.
"They said, 'Our industry is upside down and inside out, and if you don't have students who can think upside down and inside out and have an appetite for that, we won't hire them,'" Wilson said. "That got my attention."
These meetings shifted USC's curriculum, paving the way for more unique classes such as "Glass Journalism" and a separate augmented-reality course taught by Hernandez in the fall of 2013. USC even offers a class that teaches students how to be a good mentee — that is, how to best learn from mentors in the working world.
"Glass Journalism" is not the first time Google Glass has been used at the university level. A Syracuse University professor tasked his social-media class with creating Glass apps last fall, and Northeastern University in Boston did something similar with Glass and healthcarearound the same time.
At USC, Hernandez hopes his students will change journalism, an industry with deeply rooted practices that tends to be slow to change with technology. It starts with those in leadership positions within the field, Hernandez explained, a major reason why he's excited to take on this new challenge.
“Half my colleagues don’t know what I do for a living," he joked. "They don’t understand it, some of them might think I’m trying to kill journalism. The truth is I’m trying to save it, and advance it.”
Ok, Glass, let's get to work.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The 10 Highest-Rated Tech Company CEOs

Move over, Mark Zuckerberg — there's a new top CEO in town.
Glassdoor, a website that catalogs information about workplaces, published a list of the top 50 highest rated company CEOs, based on employee feedback. In 2013, Zuckerberg, Facebook's well-known CEO, topped the list with a 99% approval rating. He's been bumped down a few notches this year, but still managed to rank as one of the top ten tech company CEOs.
Other big names, including Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo were noticeably absent (they were 13 and 14, respectively, and Mayer is the only woman to crack the top 50). There just isn't enough room at the top.
Here are the 10 tech CEOs that rule 2014 thus far, according to Glassdoor.

1. Jeff Weiner — LinkedIn

Soaring in at the top overall spot with a 100% approval rating is LinkedIn's Jeff Weiner. He's been at the company since 2008, and received great reviews from former employees (who prefer to remain anonymous through Glassdoor).
“The CEO is what helps spread the culture. He emphasizes culture,” a LinkedIn associate web developer said.

2. Paul Jacobs* — Qualcomm

On the overall company list, Jacobs actually ranked fourth, but was lifted to second place in the tech realm. He nabbed a 95% rating at Qualcomm, which makes wireless telecommunications products.
“Visionary leader, great technology portfolio and offers opportunities to work on many different projects," a Qualcomm senior learning and development specialist said.
*Note from Glassdoor: Paul Jacobs was the CEO of Qualcomm at the time this report was compiled and therefore current Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf was ineligible for inclusion.

3. Brad Smith — Intuit

Smith placed sixth overall, but third on the tech list. Intuit's CEO since 2008, his employees at the software company give him a 94% approval.
“At the very top, Brad Smith and team are well-respected and keep things moving in the right direction,” an anonymous Intuit employee said.

4. Mark Zuckerberg — Facebook

In 2013, Zuckerberg was rated the top CEO overall, with a 99% approval rating. This year, the face of Facebook pulls in at fourth on the tech company list (ninth overall) with a 93% rating.
"Mark is an incredible leader who wants to make the world a better place, and I love doing work for a mission I care about," a Facebook analyst said.

5. Larry Page — Google

Page pulled in at 10th overall, but cut that in half on the tech side. Google's CEO (and co-founder) maintains a 93% approval rating. Despite the search engine's dominant global presence, Page keeps things low-key.
“Larry wants us to keep the soul of a startup, even though we no longer are one," an anonymous Google software engineer said.

6. Marc Benioff — Salesforce.com

Benioff wears a lot of hats at Salesforce.com. He's the cloud computing company's co-founder, chairman and CEO. He ranked 12th overall, but sixth on the tech list, with a 93% approval rating.
“Marc is the best CEO in the business — different for sure — but the best," an anonymous Salesforce employee said.

7. Jerry Kennelly — Riverbed Technology

Jerry Kennelly was lucky number 13 on the full list, but lands the seventh spot on the tech list. The CEO and chairman of Riverbed, an application performance company founded in 2002, landed a 93% approval rating.
“Jerry is a fantastic CEO with tons of enthusiasm and energy. Very personable and cares greatly about his company and people. Couldn't possibly be any nicer of a human being running a $1B company on this earth,” a Riverbed technology sales employee said.

8. Tim Cook — Apple

The heir to the Steve Jobs throne was 17 overall, but seized the eighth tech spot. Cook whipped up a 92% approval rating, a slight drop from last year's 93%.
“You feel like everything you do has a direct impact and you're a stakeholder," a front-end engineer said. "The VPs and CEO are not removed either. It's common to see them eating lunch on campus amongst everyone else.”

9. John Donahoe — eBay

The president and CEO of eBay since 2008, John Donahoe's actual ranking was at spot 19 in the top 50. He snagged a 91% approval and warm praise from employees.
“The CEO of the company is smart, passionate and sincere. John Donahoe is the real deal and a great leader. He may be the most approachable CEO I've ever met," an eBay director said.

10. Frank D’Souza — Cognizant Technology Solutions

D'Souza holds the 24th spot of the 50 highest rated CEOs, with a 90% approval. He's been the top exec at Cognizant since 2007, which, at 38, made him the youngest CEO of a billion-dollar IT company.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A Startlingly Simple Theory About the Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet

There has been a lot of speculation about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Terrorism, hijacking, meteors. I cannot believe the analysis on CNN; it’s almost disturbing. I tend to look for a simpler explanation, and I find it with the 13,000-foot runway at Pulau Langkawi.
We know the story of MH370: A loaded Boeing 777 departs at midnight from Kuala Lampur, headed to Beijing. A hot night. A heavy aircraft. About an hour out, across the gulf toward Vietnam, the plane goes dark, meaning the transponder and secondary radar tracking go off. Two days later we hear reports that Malaysian military radar (which is a primary radar, meaning the plane is tracked by reflection rather than by transponder interrogation response) has tracked the plane on a southwesterly course back across the Malay Peninsula into the Strait of Malacca.
The left turn is the key here. Zaharie Ahmad Shah1 was a very experienced senior captain with 18,000 hours of flight time. We old pilots were drilled to know what is the closest airport of safe harbor while in cruise. Airports behind us, airports abeam us, and airports ahead of us. They’re always in our head. Always. If something happens, you don’t want to be thinking about what are you going to do–you already know what you are going to do. When I saw that left turn with a direct heading, I instinctively knew he was heading for an airport. He was taking a direct route to Palau Langkawi, a 13,000-foot airstrip with an approach over water and no obstacles. The captain did not turn back to Kuala Lampur because he knew he had 8,000-foot ridges to cross. He knew the terrain was friendlier toward Langkawi, which also was closer.
Take a look at this airport on Google Earth. The pilot did all the right things. He was confronted by some major event onboard that made him make an immediate turn to the closest, safest airport.
The loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire.
When I heard this I immediately brought up Google Earth and searched for airports in proximity to the track toward the southwest.
For me, the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire. And there most likely was an electrical fire. In the case of a fire, the first response is to pull the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one. If they pulled the busses, the plane would go silent. It probably was a serious event and the flight crew was occupied with controlling the plane and trying to fight the fire. Aviate, navigate, and lastly, communicate is the mantra in such situations.
There are two types of fires. An electrical fire might not be as fast and furious, and there may or may not be incapacitating smoke. However there is the possibility, given the timeline, that there was an overheat on one of the front landing gear tires, it blew on takeoff and started slowly burning. Yes, this happens with underinflated tires. Remember: Heavy plane, hot night, sea level, long-run takeoff. There was a well known accident in Nigeria of a DC8 that had a landing gear fire on takeoff. Once going, a tire fire would produce horrific, incapacitating smoke. Yes, pilots have access to oxygen masks, but this is a no-no with fire. Most have access to a smoke hood with a filter, but this will last only a few minutes depending on the smoke level. (I used to carry one in my flight bag, and I still carry one in my briefcase when I fly.)
What I think happened is the flight crew was overcome by smoke and the plane continued on the heading, probably on George (autopilot), until it ran out of fuel or the fire destroyed the control surfaces and it crashed. You will find it along that route–looking elsewhere is pointless.
Ongoing speculation of a hijacking and/or murder-suicide and that there was a flight engineer on board does not sway me in favor of foul play until I am presented with evidence of foul play.
We know there was a last voice transmission that, from a pilot’s point of view, was entirely normal. “Good night” is customary on a hand-off to a new air traffic control. The “good night” also strongly indicates to me that all was OK on the flight deck. Remember, there are many ways a pilot can communicate distress. A hijack code or even transponder code off by one digit would alert ATC that something was wrong. Every good pilot knows keying an SOS over the mike always is an option. Even three short clicks would raise an alert. So I conclude that at the point of voice transmission all was perceived as well on the flight deck by the pilots.
But things could have been in the process of going wrong, unknown to the pilots.
Evidently the ACARS went inoperative some time before. Disabling the ACARS is not easy, as pointed out. This leads me to believe more in an electrical problem or an electrical fire than a manual shutdown. I suggest the pilots probably were not aware ACARS was not transmitting.
As for the reports of altitude fluctuations, given that this was not transponder-generated data but primary radar at maybe 200 miles, the azimuth readings can be affected by a lot of atmospherics and I would not have high confidence in this being totally reliable. But let’s accept for a minute that the pilot may have ascended to 45,000 feet in a last-ditch effort to quell a fire by seeking the lowest level of oxygen. That is an acceptable scenario. At 45,000 feet, it would be tough to keep this aircraft stable, as the flight envelope is very narrow and loss of control in a stall is entirely possible. The aircraft is at the top of its operational ceiling. The reported rapid rates of descent could have been generated by a stall, followed by a recovery at 25,000 feet. The pilot may even have been diving to extinguish flames.
But going to 45,000 feet in a hijack scenario doesn’t make any good sense to me.
Regarding the additional flying time: On departing Kuala Lampur, Flight 370 would have had fuel for Beijing and an alternate destination, probably Shanghai, plus 45 minutes–say, 8 hours. Maybe more. He burned 20-25 percent in the first hour with takeoff and the climb to cruise. So when the turn was made toward Langkawi, he would have had six hours or more hours worth of fuel. This correlates nicely with the Inmarsat data pings being received until fuel exhaustion.
The now known continued flight until time to fuel exhaustion only confirms to me that the crew was incapacitated and the flight continued on deep into the south Indian ocean.
There is no point speculating further until more evidence surfaces, but in the meantime it serves no purpose to malign pilots who well may have been in a struggle to save this aircraft from a fire or other serious mechanical issue. Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah was a hero struggling with an impossible situation trying to get that plane to Langkawi. There is no doubt in my mind. That’s the reason for the turn and direct route. A hijacking would not have made that deliberate left turn with a direct heading for Langkawi. It probably would have weaved around a bit until the hijackers decided where they were taking it.
Surprisingly, none of the reporters, officials, or other pilots interviewed have looked at this from the pilot’s viewpoint: If something went wrong, where would he go? Thanks to Google Earth I spotted Langkawi in about 30 seconds, zoomed in and saw how long the runway was and I just instinctively knew this pilot knew this airport. He had probably flown there many times.
Fire in an aircraft demands one thing: Get the machine on the ground as soon as possible. There are two well-remembered experiences in my memory. The AirCanada DC9 which landed, I believe, in Columbus, Ohio in the 1980s. That pilot delayed descent and bypassed several airports. He didn’t instinctively know the closest airports. He got it on the ground eventually, but lost 30-odd souls. The 1998 crash of Swissair DC-10 off Nova Scotia was another example of heroic pilots. They were 15 minutes out of Halifax but the fire overcame them and they had to ditch in the ocean. They simply ran out of time. That fire incidentally started when the aircraft was about an hour out of Kennedy. Guess what? The transponders and communications were shut off as they pulled the busses.
Get on Google Earth and type in Pulau Langkawi and then look at it in relation to the radar track heading. Two plus two equals four. For me, that is the simple explanation why it turned and headed in that direction. Smart pilot. He just didn’t have the time.
Chris Goodfellow has 20 years experience as a Canadian Class-1 instrumented-rated pilot for multi-engine planes. His theory on what happened to MH370 first appeared on Google+. We’ve copyedited it with his permission.
courtesy www.wired.com

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The NFL Is Quietly Suing M.I.A and Her Middle Finger for $16.6 Million

The National Football League has ramped up its lawsuit against musician M.I.A., seeking $16.6 million in damages after she flashed her middle finger at the camera during the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show.
M.I.A. took to her Twitter account where she linked to the Hollywood Reporter, which first reported the news.
She also posted a picture of the complaint, in which she said the NFL proposed to take a percentage of M.I.A.'s income in addition to the other damages.
The NFL had been seeking $1.5 million for breach of contract, but recently added another $15 million for the value of the two-minutes of screen time that M.I.A. received. That amount is based on how much advertisers had paid for spots during the game.
During a performance that featured Madonna and also included Nicki Minaj, M.I.A. gestured toward the camera at the end of a verse she performed in the song "Give Me All Your Luvin'." The move prompted 222 FCC complaints.

Soundwave Adds Chrome Browser Extension To Let You Track Your Desktop Music Listening

Since its launch in late June last year, Soundwave, the Mark Cuban-backed music discovery app that tracks the listening habits of you, your friends and other users you follow, had at least one gaping omission. It was mobile-only — iOS and Android — meaning that there was no way for the service to track music you consumed on a desktop computer.

For users like me, that rendered Soundwave a little mute since the majority of my music listening takes place on a laptop streamed to my home-office stereo. Today, however, the Dublin-based startup is going someway to fix this. It’s enabled desktop tracking in the form of a Chrome browser extension so that a plethora of desktop web-based music services can send listening data to the Soundwave app.
Specifically, the list of services that the Chrome extension is able to track includes Pandora, Spotify, Deezer, 8tracks, Songza, Rdio, Google Play Music, VK (particularly beneficial for Soundwave’s large Russian user base), India’s Gaana, and Grooveshark.
What’s also notable about the limited desktop tracking support is that it’s strictly one-way. There’s no desktop version of Soundwave itself; this is purely about providing a way to plug desktop web listening data into the service — picking up where the ‘scrobbling’ feature of Last.fm left off, if you will — rather than extending the number of platforms where Soundwave and all of its music discovery and social features can be consumed.
Regarding the latter, Soundwave recently added comments and #hashtags to its mobile apps, as well as Twitter integration so that you can share music discoveries on the social media service.
Of course, just like the recent addition of YouTube tracking, Soundwave’s Chrome extension means it is closer to fulfilling its mission to become the one-stop-shop for tracking your listening habits and in turn helping you discover new music through the listening habits of your friends and influencers you follow. Likewise, it doesn’t harm the company’s Big Data play, either, in which it plans to sell aggregate listening data back to the music industry.
Soundwave is also sharing some updated metrics with TechCrunch. Combining iOS and Android the app has seen over 950,000 downloads — up from 750,000 in December last year. I’m also told that “emerging markets” are proving pretty key for the startup, thus the desktop tracking support for Russia’s VK and India’s Gaana. Soundwave also recently achieved the top music app position in the App store in France, which resulted in 10,000 downloads in a single day. 65 million song plays have been tracked by the app’s users to date.
In addition to Mark Cuban, Soundwave’s backers include ACT Venture Capital, Enterprise Ireland, Matthew Le Merle, and Trevor Bowen, one of the people behind U2′s management company Principle Management. Funding totals $1.5 million.

The All New HTC One Will Be Available Immediately After Its March 25 Unveiling

HTC continues to do an absolutely terrible job of plugging leaks related to its upcoming HTC One flagship smartphone which replaces last year’s HTC One of the same name. Today, we learned the new model will go on sale immediately after it’s made official by HTC on March 25 at a special event in NYC, thanks to a leaked Carphone Warehouse release that went out a tad early.

The release was picked up by Engadget, and says that in the UK at least, eager buyers will be able to get at the new Android smartphone instantly, instead of having to wait a few weeks or months to order the latest gadget, as is typically the case. The Samsung Galaxy S5, which is arguably the top rival device for the HTC One, was announced at MWC in February but won’t ship until sometime in April, for instance.
HTC selling instantly beats Samsung to the punch, at least in a few markets (I suspect we’ll see that the UK isn’t the only place they embrace this strategy), and that’s one way to punch up in a market where you’re a perpetual underdog. Every year, smartphone buyers ready to upgrade have to make a bet on a single device, and if your flagship is out before another with similar (if not identical) internal specs, then it stands to reason you have a good chance to attract a decent amount of the early adopters.
The so-called ‘all new’ HTC One also has the advantage of inheriting some of the reputation of its predecessor, which was universally enjoyed by critics, and, according to many accounts, by users too, even if it didn’t break sales records for Android phones. Building on that reputation, HTC stands a better chance of translating any remaining momentum earned for its previous flagship to the new one with a quick launch.

Man Beats Robot at Ping-Pong, World Breathes Sigh of Relief

Are robots destined to beat humans at everything? Maybe not or at least not yet. German industrial robotics company Kuka hosted what may be the first-ever man versus robot (arm) table tennis match and finally revealed the results in this video. 

Kuka's Agilus robot arm, took on German Table Tennis champ and former number one player in the world Timo Boll on March 11. Unfortunately, the match wasn't streamed live. Instead, the Germany-based Kuka filmed the match for a commercial and then sliced and diced it into the final cut you see above. Much of the action is in slow-motion, which may be because Boll and Kuka's Agilus move too quickly to be caught on a camera running at regular speed.

Yes, Boll apparently came out on top in the match, which was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, but there's no way to know if it was one continuous match or a series of scripted shots. It's also unclear how the robot is tracking the Ping-Pong ball. Kuka's website does not list visual sensors as part of Agilus's feature set, which may mean the robot used external sensors to track the tiny orange ball.

Based on the video (and the not-very-informative "making of" clip the company released later), it looks like the 114-pound, six-axis robot has the speed, mobility and reach (nearly 3 feet) to hold its own against Boll. In the video, it goes six-up before Boll comes roaring back to beat Agilus by one point. 

Kuka created the video to promote the opening of its new robot-building facility in Shanghai, China. 

Mashable contacted Kuka for more information about the "match" and Agilus, but has yet to receive a response. In the meantime, let's score one for humankind, or at least one very athletically gifted man.