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February 21st, 2014
09:44 AM ET

What's the big deal with WhatsApp?

So Facebook purchases the mobile messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock.

And the world raises a collective eyebrow.

Yes, the app has over 450 million monthly active users. But is it truly worth it?

According to Silicon Valley insider Om Malik, the answer is yes... if you're Mark Zuckerberg.

Malik tells me, "What seems like an insane amount of money is not insane when you feel a little worried about the long-term prospects of the company."

Click on to hear more about why Facebook forked up so much money for WhatsApp, and to see how the app's key metrics compare to its rivals.

January 31st, 2014
03:35 AM ET

Saving Nintendo

Nintendo is in trouble.

It's hard to disagree with that after it slashed its forecast for Wii U sales from 9 million to just 2.8 million. Less dramatic but perhaps just as troubling: It also cut its forecast for its market-leading 3DS handheld. Nintendo now expects to sell 13.5 million of them, down from the 18 million they originally expected.

But what's up for debate is how Nintendo can climb out of this hole. By far the most common solution suggested: Nintendo should put games like Mario and Zelda on smartphones and tablets.

I disagree.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Games • General • Personal musings • Technology
January 27th, 2014
10:36 PM ET

She made the Macintosh smile

happymac

Anyone with an older Mac probably knows this icon: A boxy all-in-one computer with a simple smiling face on screen.

Like all good symbols, the Happy Mac serves multiple purposes. The official reason it exists is to tell you that your Macintosh has begun the process of booting up without error.

More than that, the Happy Mac was a symbol of intent from Apple: This computer is friendly. It doesn't have an impenetrable interface filled with text you don't understand. The Mac has pictures. And it's smiling at you!

Susan Kare was the graphic designer who created the Happy Mac. She spoke to us about the process behind that and many of the other icons that made the original Macintosh so different to any computer before it.

FULL POST

January 1st, 2014
11:21 AM ET

Looking back at 2013

News Stream usually brings you stories about the power of technology to improve our lives. But in 2013, the top tech story was more ominous.

Since June, revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency's surveillance programs have come to light. The fallout has been felt in Washington and the rest of the world.

Tech companies have expressed outrage over the U.S. government's spying practices. Listen to Google's chairman Eric Schmidt in Part 1 (above).

In Part 2, hear from Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales and examine the new generation of gaming consoles.

Finally in Part 3, astronaut Chris Hadfield speaks about his popular videos from space. And we ask what the future holds for mobile technology.

We hope you enjoy these highlights from 2013. We look forward to the year ahead!


Filed under: Gadgets • Games • Mobile World Congress • Technology • Titans of Tech • Viral Videos
November 1st, 2013
05:47 AM ET

Delving into the Deep Web

Earlier this month, U.S. authorities shut down the Silk Road after its alleged operator, Ross Ulbricht, was arrested.

The Silk Road was a very successful online marketplace where people bought and sold illegal goods - from drugs to forged documents, firearms to exotic animals - without getting caught.

Why?

It existed in a hidden corner of the Internet called the "Deep Web."

But who built the Deep Web and why?

Click on. The answer will surprise you…

October 10th, 2013
09:11 AM ET

What happened to Lavabit?

Why did the secure e-mail service Lavabit suddenly shut down in August?

It was widely believed that the U.S. government wanted access to the Lavabit account of NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Lavabit's owner, Ladar Levison, posted a message blaming a secret U.S. court battle. He also vowed to keep fighting while adding this warning:

"This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States."

Last week, some court documents were unsealed and made public. A review of the files on NewYorker.com says, "These disclosures fall short of the ideal of open justice, but they do give Levison’s ordeal a public shape."

Regular News Stream contributor Nicholas Thompson edited the New Yorker piece. I spoke to him about what the documents reveal.

He tells me, "What we are seeing from these court documents is that most e-mail providers - when the FBI came to them during the NSA (episode) – said, 'Here it is.'"

"But here's the one guy who said, 'No. I'm going to fight you tooth and nail, no matter what way I can.'"

Listen on to learn how Levison resisted U.S. government demands to turn over the Lavabit encryption key (including the use of an 11-page printout in 4-point type) and what the aggressive pursuit of Lavabit reveals about the psyche in Washington.

BlackBerry: Why breaking up is hard to do
September 24th, 2013
11:40 AM ET

BlackBerry: Why breaking up is hard to do

By Kristie Lu Stout

Hong Kong (CNN) – I can't even remember the last time I thumbed a message on its itty-bitty qwerty keyboard.

And yet, I stubbornly keep my BlackBerry in my bag and on my desk, fully charged.

As with my Palm Vx of yesterday, breaking up with a beloved gadget is hard to do, especially when you have history.

FULL POST

September 12th, 2013
08:02 AM ET

Behind the shocking numbers of the U.N. rape report

When I first read the report, I was aghast.

A U.N. study published this week revealed a truly shocking prevalence of rape across the Asia-Pacific region.

Out of more than 10,000 men surveyed:

  • Nearly a quarter of men interviewed admitted to raping a woman or girl.
  • Nearly half the respondents reported using physical or sexual violence against a female partner.
  • And nearly half of those who admitted to rape, first did so as a teenager with 12% of them under 15 years of age at the time.

The survey was conducted across six countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea.

The findings in the report are mind-boggling. So how did the team gather such brutally honest responses?

"The methodology is something that we feel is quite innovative for the study," said James Lang, the Program Coordinator for Partners for Prevention, which carried out the study.

"We used these handheld devices - iPod Touches - to ensure men would answer the questions about the perpetration of violence in a completely anonymous way."

The survey team also never used the word rape. Instead, participants were asked questions such as, "Have you ever forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex?" or "Have you ever had sex with a woman who was too drugged or drunk to indicate whether she wanted it?"

In addition to revealing the prevalence of sexual violence in the region, Lang says the study reaffirms that such violence is preventable.

"To prevent violence, we have to make violence unacceptable," Lang tells me. "We have to change these norms in communities where violence is allowed, as well as norms around gender equality and the subordination of women."

Lang's study has the statistics to shock anyone into recognizing the scourge of sexual violence in the region. Here's hoping it will spur policymakers across Asia into action and end the impunity for men who use violence against women.

August 23rd, 2013
09:33 AM ET

Why your mobile phone is a weather station

Your smart phone is smarter than you think.

The UK-based OpenSignal has developed an app that crowd sources the weather using data from your mobile battery.

That's right, you can tell how hot it is outside thanks your cellphone's energy source. That's because smartphones have built-in thermometers to track battery temperature to help prevent overheating.

It's something the company discovered by accident. A year ago, OpenSignal discovered a strong correlation between battery temperature and daily temperatures recorded at a weather station.

Its WeatherSignal app, available for Android phones, crowd sources the temperature data from thousands of users who are running the app.

How accurate is the data? And will it be able to predict the weather one day?

Click on to my News Stream interview with OpenSignal co-founder and CTO James Robinson to find out.

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Filed under: Data • Gadgets • Technology • Weather
August 12th, 2013
01:49 PM ET

How to fight online bullies

What can be done to fight an outbreak of online threats and bullying in the UK?

British Prime Minister David Cameron has called for a boycott of sites that allow cyberbullying, while asking for website operators to "step up to the plate" and show some responsibility.

A number of companies have pulled their ads from Ask.fm, the site where 14-year-old Hannah Smith was bullied before she committed suicide.

British MP Barry Sheerman wants to take action. On News Stream he said, "I would set up a commission and look at the responsibility of people who own and manage sites like Twitter and Ask.fm because they have responsibility."

"I would look at a range of options like a red button if you're being bullied, so immediately it flags you to a counselor - if you are a child - who can give you information, guidance and advice."

"Also, what we need to do is prosecute these people who cause an enormous disturbance to others as much mentally as physically."

Click on to hear more from Sheerman. What he reveals could be the beginning of one country's legislated approach to online abuse.

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