U.S. Created “Cuban Twitter” To Stir Dissent, Sought Funding From Jack Dorsey, AP Reports

The power of social media.

TechCrunch

The U.S. government created its own version of Twitter based on SMS messaging to help undermine the Cuban government, according to a new, eye-opening report by the Associated Press today. The report details efforts by a team of tech contractors to build and launch a messaging network in Cuba that would be hidden away from the country’s strict surveillance and control of the flow of information.

The network was called ‘ZunZuneo,’ which is Cuban slang for the song of the hummingbird, and it was designed to be essentially a so-called “Cuban Twitter” that could function without the web and build an audience using safe content initially, like talk about sports, music and extreme weather systems moving through the area. Once there was an audience, in terms of enough regular active users, the plan was to flip the switch on content that was critical of the ruling powers, and also intent…

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Apple Patents Headphones That Recognize When You’re Speaking And Tune For Better Audio Quality

This development could be helpful for people who are hard of hearing.

TechCrunch

Apple has a new patent application for a tech that could improve the design of its pre-packaged iOS device headphones, AppleInsider has found. The new patent describes earbuds with a built-in mic that could automatically detect user voice activity, and then tune a series of built-in mics to optimally pick up their speech and cancel out any background noise.

The advanced design would use so-called “beamforming” mics that can redirect themselves towards the source of a users voice, i.e., their head, upon detection of vocal activity. To detect when a person starts talking, the design would use a built-in accelerometer that could pick up the vibrations created when a user starts talking, as generated by their vocal chords. Mics built-into the chord are either set to a general pattern to be able to best pick-up speech, or can include an active element to have them direct their orientation based on…

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Surveillance fears are causing people to be more cautious online — and that’s good

Gigaom

Almost half of Americans are increasingly cautious about their use of the internet following the NSA surveillance leaks, according to a Harris poll commissioned by security outfit ESET. This is pretty much what I and many others predicted when the agency’s data snooping scandal broke last year – an outbreak of self-censorship.

According to the poll, 85 percent of the 2,034 people surveyed were at least somewhat aware of the scandal. Of those, 47 percent (so 40 percent of the total) now “think more carefully about where they go, what they say, and what they do online.” Over a quarter of the 85 percent are now doing less online banking and shopping, and just under a quarter are “less inclined to use email.”

Though recent high-profile data breaches may also be a psychological factor, for the internet industry, this shows the worst effects of the surveillance scandal. As much as…

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MightyBell Now Tolls For All

TechCrunch

The group software space is getting hot. Between Google Groups, Facebook Groups, Yammer, Convo, Asana, newcomer Slack and more, a loose or tight-knit organization has plenty of tools to choose from in order to keep its community organized.

Gina Bianchini’s second attempt at social networking for small communities, MightyBell, has fully joined the niche communication fray today, opening its “social for small groups” product up to all after two years of painstaking and iterative development.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 7.49.26 AM

MightyBell, which has gone through a couple of evolutions, has thus far been in private beta, powering Lean In’s Circles in addition to 450 communities set up by organizations like American Express, the Gates Foundation and online learning startup SkillCrush. Bianchini considers MightyBell to be in the “Internet of People” space, alongside “Facebook for X” products like Nextdoor, Houzz and Github.

“Most organizations today are using a combination of different products to…

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Get Your Halfbike Runnin’ Head Out On The Highway

This is an interesting new development for near community mobility solutions.

TechCrunch

Why settle for a whole bike when a half will do? This decidedly odd Kickstarted bicycle, called the Halfbike, promises a lightweight, speedy ride across town while bringing you the best of running and biking in one weird package. Created by architects Martin Angelov and Mihail Klenov, the bike is at $50,000 of an $80,000 goal and has ten days left.

“Halfbike is a new addition to bicycle culture and in no way tries to impose or substitute the bike,” said Klenov. “A personal vehicle that brings joy back to urban mobility and transforms commuting from a monotonous task into a pleasant part of everyday life.”

While hanging onto a wooden stick and caroming down a hill doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time, Klenov is convinced. The team came up with the idea while rethinking how the bicycle was designed. By reducing parts and improving efficiency they…

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Speech Recognition Pioneer Novauris Bought By Apple, Team Now Works On Siri

Speech recognition Technologies have always played an important role for people with mobility and impairments.

TechCrunch

Apple quietly acquired an automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology company called Novauris Technologies, which grew out of Dragon Systems R&D U.K. Ltd., the British research subsidiary of Dragon Systems, a well-known voice dictation pioneer. Founded in 2002, the company was currently being managed by Yoon Kim (CEO), Melvyn Hunt (Co-founder) and John Bridle (Co-founder), whose backgrounds include work at Dragon, Nortel, SRI (which helped to birth Apple acquisition Siri), Marconi and Aurix.

Novauris actually began operations in March 2002, after reassembling almost all the former Dragon Systems U.K. R&D team. Founder Jim Baker funded the initial development work and originally owned the company, but Bridle and Hunt bought him out along with some help from private investors in September 2004. They then brought on Kim, who had been heading up TTS company NeoSpeech, as CEO.

The acquisition apparently took place last year, but had not been announced. At…

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Sociology Journal: Dialectic Reading on “Driving Discontinuance And Quality Of Life Among Elderly” by Joseph M. Pellerito Jr.

phuongthanhnguyen

What questions did the text/chapter raise? How did the text answer this question? How does the answer match our own ideas and experiences?
What is driving retirement and what consequences exist for it? In the text, the discussion of driving retirement revolves mainly around both elderly men and women.  Driving retirement is the act of excluding oneself from driving a vehicle among society.  People who take themselves upon driving retirement are due to compulsory reasons (forced to quit driving) or voluntary reasons (because of known personal health factors for example).  From studies within the text, mostly negative consequences are associated with driving retirement.  Examples include, but are not limited to, the following: 1) diminished spontaneity, 2) feelings of being a burden on family members, and 3) a perceived loss of social status.  Also, both men and women perceive driving retirement differently.  Women see driving retirement having more of an impact…

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Facebook’s Oculus Buy Will Force A New Social Future

TechCrunch

Editor’s note:   Brett G. Durrett is the CEO of IMVU, the leader in 3D Social Chat, featuring the world’s largest catalog of virtual goods with over 16 million user-generated products.    

Some reacted to Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR less than enthusiastically, but the announcement is one of the most exciting opportunities for the future of “social VR” a future where virtual reality will help build stronger online interactions through more expressive communication and shared experiences.

The winner in social VR will start with the premise that relationships between people, their need for self expression and emotive communication is fundamental to the VR experience. Social VRisn’t just another take on virtual worlds — the “world” is arguably the least important component necessary to succeed. Many companies have attempted to build virtual worlds with the hope they would become a social environment. Of the few that…

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HTC One (M8) Review: The New Best Android Smartphone

TechCrunch

There’s a new contender for Android top dog on the market, and it’s the HTC One (M8), the latest from the Taiwanese firm. This metal-clad unibody slab inherits the good looks of its predecessor, last year’s HTC One (retroactively referred to as the M7), but refines the look and adds a lot of significant software changes, too. It makes the new One a great device, and well worth a look as your next device.

Video Review

[tc_5min code=”518178504″]

Basics

  • 5.0-inch, 1080p display
  • 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor
  • 2GB RAM, 32GB storage
  • MicroSD expandable storage
  • 5MP front camera, HTC UltraPixel rear camera
  • 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
  • MSRP: $649 off contract, $249.99 on 2-year agreement
  • Product info page

Pros

  • Best design of any Android phone
  • Screen is just at the upper end of size/usability ratio

Cons

  • Some accidental touch on far side interactions
  • New Motion Launch feature makes for accidental unlocking

Design

The…

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