Tag: technology

How To Make Android And iOS Play Nicely Together

Even if you love Android, you can’t totally ignore iOS. You probably have plenty of family members or friends who use iPhones.

Or you may dabble with the other side on your own with an iPad, which isn’t a bad option considering the Android tablet space could use really use a new Nexus flagship.

As you’re probably aware, you can forget about using most Apple services on Android.

Apple Music is a rare exception, though much like iTunes on Windows, you get the feeling it will always be a second-class citizen compared to the iOS version.

So when you think of sharing music, photos, messaging, and location updates you have to go outside the walls of Cupertino.

This is where the app ecosystem comes in. Not only are there plenty of good services that work well on both Android and iOS, but they’re often better.

If you do it right, you’ll move from one screen to another, regardless of platform, with ease. And you’ll be better connected to those in your life who just can’t part with their iPhones.

Go over the top for messaging

Let’s start simple: the ski slopes will probably open up in the infernal regions before Apple ports iMessage to Android.

It’s really unfortunate, because iMessage is probably the one thing I miss the most from when I used an iPhone everyday.

Real-time typing notifications, sync to the desktop, and of course the social pressure of not being one of those dreaded green bubbles are all nice to have.

Keep tabs on everybody

Another iOS-only app that you have to live without is Find My Friends.

Again, Apple has crafted a seamless approach for keeping tabs on family members, especially helpful if you have children that aren’t very good at reporting their whereabouts.

Familonet gives a lot of additional details, such as location history, customized alerts, and it supports Android Wear (iOS users also get Apple Watch support).

Share photos with ease

Keeping a photo collection in sync, or just the act of sharing images, can be a pain when you’re trying to do this across mobile platforms.

If you have enough Google Drive storage then you can save everything at full quality, and that’s definitely the best option. The iOS app is also pretty much on par with features as the Android version.

In the end, the beauty of our current app situation is that there is a ton of choice out there to keep everything for yourself and others all in sync.

We’re in a multi-platform and multi-device world, and the services that are worth our time are going to be the ones that navigate this the best.

The hardest part is convincing iOS users to stray from Apple’s defaults, which are convenient, even if third-party apps and services are better.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

How To Find Out Everything Facebook Knows About You

If you use Facebook, then you know the deal.

Facebook is free to use and fun, and sometimes necessary if you belong to groups that use it to communicate with their members.

But in exchange for that service, you have allowed it to track your activity so that advertisers can find you, hopefully to show you stuff you’ll want to buy.

In other words: you can’t opt out of ads on Facebook without opting out of Facebook itself.

But there’s still a lot you can do to control the ads you see.

And there’s also stuff you can do to stop Facebook from watching what you do on the rest of the internet in service of its advertisers.

Besides all the usual arguments about privacy, there is another good reason to figure out what Facebook knows about you and participate in that.

It shows you ads based on what it thinks you like. The better it does this, the more likely you are going to see ads on things that truly interest you.

Facebook has three ways to figure you out.

1. What you tell it directly (name, age, marital status, parental status, where you live, work, went to school, etc.).

2. What you do while you are on Facebook, including stuff you’ve “liked,” groups you joined, photos and links you’ve shared, things you click on.

3. What you do on the rest of the internet outside of Facebook such as websites you visit.

Many sites track this information via cookies and Facebook reads those cookies and uses that information to serve up ads both on its site and on other websites, it says.

It’s easy to see the things you’ve directly shared with Facebook on your Timeline profile page. But to see a fully tally of what Facebook thinks you like, you need to find a tool called Ad Preferences.

This tool is not easy to find. Locate it by using the controls Facebook has embedded into the ads themselves.

Head to your Facebook news feed.

Hover your mouse over any ad you see in the right-hand column and look for the little “x” to appear in the corner of the add. Click on it.

You can make Facebook stop tracking you on the internet.

Facebook does watch what you do outside of Facebook to show you ads.

For example, if you visit travel websites, you might then see ads on Facebook for hotel deals. We call this online interest-based advertising,” it explains.

You can tell it to stop showing you ads based on you do on the internet. Click on the lock icon in the blue bar. Then click on “Ads” in the left column, then choose “Off.”

This will not stop Facebook from showing you just as many ads, but it won’t be using your web activity for them.

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Pass it on: Popular Science


Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk Unveils Autonomous Flying Taxis

Autonomous flying taxis just took one big step forward to leaping off the pages of science fiction and into the real world, thanks to Google co-founder Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk.

The billionaire-backed firm has announced that it will begin the regulatory approval process required for launching its autonomous passenger-drone system in New Zealand, after conducting secret testing under the cover of another company called Zephyr Airworks.

The firm’s two-person craft, called Cora, is a 12-rotor plane-drone hybrid that can take off vertically like a drone, but then uses a propeller at the back to fly at up to 110 miles an hour for around 62 miles at a time.

The all-electric Cora flies autonomously up to 914 metres (3,000ft) above ground, has a wingspan of 11 metres, and has been eight years in the making.

Kitty Hawk is personally financed by Page and is being run by former Google autonomous car director Sebastian Thrun. The company is trying to beat Uber and others to launching an autonomous flying taxi service.

The company hopes to have official certification and to have launched a commercial service within three years, which will make it the first to do so.

But its achievement will also propel New Zealand to the front of the pack as the first country to devise a certification process.

The country’s aviation authority is well respected in the industry, and is seen as pioneering.

Kitty Hawk is already working on an app and technology to allow customers to hail flying taxis as they would an Uber, but whether Page, Thrun and their team will actually be able to deliver within three years remains to be seen.

Many companies have promised great leaps but failed to deliver meaningful progress towards a Jetsons-like future, from Uber’s Elevate to China’s Ehang.

Even if Kitty Hawk hits all its projected milestones and launches commercially, there’s then the matter of persuading people to actually use it.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Apple Announces A March 27th Event Focusing On Education

Apple has announced an event on March 27th that will focus on “creative new ideas for teachers and students,” according to an invitation that just went out.

There’s not a lot to go by in terms of hints from the invitation — just a stylized Apple logo and the phrase “Let’s take a field trip,” which fits in with the education theme.

But it’s been rumored that Apple has been working on cheaper MacBooks and iPads, which would make sense given this event’s context.

Interestingly, the event won’t be held in Apple’s newly opened Apple Park campus in Cupertino, but at a high school in Chicago.

Chicago’s Board of Education recently added computer science as a graduation requirement for all public schools in the city, making it a fitting pairing for an Apple event.

Apple has also been working to transition the iPad into a classroom tool for educators for the past several years.

With recent rumors claiming that the company could release an entry-level 9.7-inch iPad priced around $259, which is even cheaper than the current $329 model.

Additionally, if you’re prone to reading into Apple’s invitations, it’s easy to see how the company could be hinting at something related to the iPad or Apple Pencil with this seemingly hand-drawn Apple logo.

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A Self-driving Uber In Arizona Kills A Woman In First Fatal Crash Involving Pedestrian

An autonomous Uber car killed a woman in the street in Arizona, police said, in what appears to be the first reported fatal crash involving a self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian in the US.

Tempe police said the self-driving car was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash and that the vehicle hit a woman, who was walking outside of the crosswalk and later died at a hospital.

There was a vehicle operator inside the car at the time of the crash.

Uber said in a statement on Twitter: “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.” A spokesman declined to comment further on the crash.

The company said it was pausing its self-driving car operations in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, tweeted: “Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened.

Uber has been testing its self-driving cars in numerous states and temporarily suspended its vehicles in Arizona last year after a crash involving one of its vehicles, a Volvo SUV.

When the company first began testing its self-driving cars in California in 2016, the vehicles were caught running red lights, leading to a high-profile dispute between state regulators and the San Francisco-based corporation.

Police identified the victim as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg and said she was walking outside of the crosswalk with a bicycle when she was hit at around 10pm on Sunday. Images from the scene showed a damaged bike.

The 2017 Volvo SUV was traveling at roughly 40 miles an hour, and it did not appear that the car slowed down as it approached the woman, said Tempe sergeant Ronald Elcock.

Elcock said he had watched footage of the collision, which has not been released to the public. He also identified the operator of the car as Rafael Vasquez, 44, and said he was cooperative and there were no signs of impairment.

The self-driving technology is supposed to detect pedestrians, cyclists and others and prevent crashes.

John M Simpson, privacy and technology project director with Consumer Watchdog, said the collision highlighted the need for tighter regulations of the nascent technology.

The robot cars cannot accurately predict human behavior, and the real problem comes in the interaction between humans and the robot vehicles,” said Simpson, whose advocacy group called for a national moratorium on autonomous car testing in the wake of the deadly collision.

Simpson said he was unaware of any previous fatal crashes involving an autonomous vehicle and a pedestrian.

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Did Quick Construction Technique Lead To FIU Pedestrian Bridge Collapse?

The unfinished pedestrian overpass that toppled onto the Tamiami Trail on Thursday was being built under a relatively novel approach called accelerated bridge construction.

A fast, tested method that carries some risks if not rigorously carried out.

Until it’s fully secured, a quick-build structure is unstable and requires the utmost precision as construction continues.

Properly shoring up the bridge can take weeks, a period during which even small mistakes can compound and cause a partial or total collapse, said Amjad Aref, a researcher at University at Buffalo’s Institute of Bridge Engineering.

Just before the bridge’s concrete main span abruptly gave way on Thursday, crushing four people in cars to death and injuring others, a contractor’s crews were conducting stress tests on the incomplete structure, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said.

The 950-ton span, assembled by the side of the road over a period of months, was hoisted into place in a matter of hours on Saturday morning.

That stress testing typically involves placing carefully calibrated weights on the span and measuring how the structure responds to ensure it’s within safe parameters, Aref said.

Crews may also have been adjusting tension cables that provide structural strength for the span’s concrete slabs.

In almost all bridge or building collapses, though, construction errors are to blame, not design, said Ralph Verrastro, a Cornell-trained engineer and principal of Naples-based Bridging Solutions, which is not involved in the FIU project.

Determining what exactly went wrong will likely take months. The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation.

Over the coming weeks, forensic engineers will try to unravel what happened in a complicated analysis that involves picking through debris, looking at designs, and piecing together inspections, said Princeton University civil engineering professor Maria Moreyra Garlock.

The construction phase, she noted, is often the most dangerous point in the life of the bridge.

Engineers could sample material at the site to test for strength, she said, and look at the sequence of inspections to determine what happened when.

Site inspections might also reveal what caused the sudden collapse.

Thursday’s tragic accident is sure to raise questions over the decision by Florida International University to take the quick-build approach, adopted in large part to minimize the need to interrupt traffic on the busy highway.

The decision by its contractors to undertake testing while traffic flowed along the busy roadway below will also be scrutinzed. FIU was running the project under an agreement with the state.

Accelerated bridge construction has become more common in the past decade, especially in urban areas with heavy traffic, Verrastro said.

FIU’s engineering school has become a hub for accelerated bridge construction training and research in recent years.

The bridge was devised to provide FIU students and others a safe way to cross multi-lane Southwest Eighth Street, also known as the Trail, to the small town of Sweetwater, where the school estimates some 4,000 students live.

At least one student was hit and killed by a car at that busy crossing, at 109th Avenue, which leads to new apartments built by private developers designed to cater to the university.

FIU selected the contracting team in a competitive process. It consists of MCM Construction, a family owned contractor based in Miami, and Figg Bridge Group, a design and engineering firm based in Tallahassee.

MCM is one of the most influential contractors in Miami-Dade, and a top contributor to county races. Gimenez said he spoke to co-principal Pedro Munilla by telephone from Hong Kong, where the county mayor is leading a county trade mission.

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Chips That Mimic Organs Could Be More Powerful Than Animal Testing

Each year, millions of rats and mice die for the sake of human safety. Scientists studying toxicity in chemicals feed, inject, or spray them on animals to suss out potential ill effects.

But Congress is now finally updating the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976, which will among other things encourage the Environmental Protection Agency to find alternatives to animal testing.

The updated act, which is expected to pass both houses of Congress soon, asks the EPA to consider a suite of new testing technologies.

Such as high-throughput robots that apply chemicals to cells in petri dishes and algorithms that predict toxicity based on the effects of similar chemicals.

The most ambitious, the most sci-fi of all these technologies, though, is a human body on a chip.

Think mini organs the size of matchboxes—each mimicking a patch of heart muscle or alveoli in the lungs—all connected together by a tiny circulatory system of microfluidic tubes. An entire human body in miniature.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

“Cruelty Free” Dog Food Grown in Labs Could Give Your Dog A Vegan Lifestyle

Dogs and cats everywhere, rejoice. Bond Pets, a Colorado-based startup, has its eyes set on bringing lab-grown, clean protein to pets nationwide.

Described as “Pet food made from real animal protein, without the animal,” Bond Pets is an entirely new breed of food hoping to make mealtime extra special for cats and dogs.

The developing brand was founded by Rich Kelleman, who was inspired to action after struggling with his wife to find healthy and transparent foods for their pets.

Kelleman found that lots of these foods had bad, unhealthy ingredients in them, and that even the “healthier” brands had sketchy, unclear sciences behind their labels.

Pet foods across the board, expensive and are notorious for being filled with animal leftovers including animal bones, beaks, hair, and manure. Needless to say, these kinds of proteins are dirty and are no good for our pets.

While lab-grown meat is still a new concept to many, the science behind it is already deeply developed.

Kelleman explained, “I thought…it was a bit like science fiction, something that would be cool for the future.” He continued, “I didn’t think it would have practical application now.”

It’s far closer to practical than science fiction, with other brands like Hampton Creek and Memphis Meats working with similar technologies.

Essentially, these folks are able to produce actual animal meat through the use of cells. This means that the animals — who would traditionally be bred, farmed, and slaughtered — are safe.

Ryan Yamka, who works with Bond Pets, says that people shouldn’t be surprised to see a company trying to incorporate pets into the thriving food culture we’re seeing today.

Pet food has always been quick follower to the human food trends,” he said. “So it’s not surprising that you see…what I would call the sustainable- food movement getting into the pet-food side.”

Bond Pets is still developing so it might be a little while before anyone sees their products in stores. However, given time, Bond Pets may change the animal market altogether, for the better.

Clean meat and clean protein is a thriving idea for human beings and there’s no reason our animal companions should be left out.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Sound Waves Could Be Used To Prevent Millions Of Birds Flying Into Wind Turbines

Devices that use focused sounds to prevent birds from crashing into tall structures, or gathering in places where they are not wanted, have been developed by scientists.

It is thought they could be employed to prevent the deaths of millions of birds every year that collide with wind turbines.

When other structures such as mobile phone masts and buildings are taken into consideration, the number of bird deaths resulting from collisions is thought to go into the billions.

At the same time, birds cause an enormous amount of damage to human infrastructure, feeding on agricultural products and flying into aeroplanes.

In response to these problems, behavioural biologist Dr John Swaddle has helped develop technological solutions that use sound waves to drive birds away from areas where they are causing disruption.

The fundamental knowledge of how birds behave and respond to sound helps us derive these new technologies and solutions,” Dr Swaddle told attendees at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Along with his collaborators, Sonic Nets and Acoustic Lighthouses, he has developed two projects to combat the problem.

Sonic Nets have already been extensively trialled, and are known to be effective devices to reduce bird numbers in specific locations such as fields full of ripening crops.

The speakers in these devices emit “pink noise” designed to disrupt the communication of gathering birds. Birds that cannot “talk” to each other are also unable to warn each other about approaching danger.

John Swaddle.

This tends to make birds nervous, meaning they will quickly disperse.

The Acoustic Lighthouse is a newer concept, and one that Dr Swaddle would like to see applied to prevent bird collisions with wind turbines in particular.

A directional speaker mounted on a wind turbine can be used to alert approaching birds to the approaching danger.

Bird anatomy means that when they are in flight, their focus is not directed ahead.

Their eyes are located on the sides of their heads, and while they may turn their heads from side to side to look downwards, their forward-facing vision will not be in high resolution.

Scientists have suggested birds are not prepared for the presence of tall, man-made structures in their aerial environment.

However, if birds are shocked into looking ahead by bursts of sound, they will suddenly stop in the air, averting collision. This was demonstrated in a paper co-authored by Dr Swaddle in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology.

These issues are particularly pertinent in Virginia, where Dr Swaddle is based at Virginia’s College of William and Mary.

Not only does the state sit underneath a major bird migration route, it is also being eyed up as a prime setting for wind turbines.

While the Acoustic Lighthouses are still under development, Sonic Nets are already being commercialised in a partnership with local business Midstream Technology.

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Pass it on: Popular Science