archives

Computer Tech

This category contains 23 posts

Japan to Launch World’s First Talking Robot in Space

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To those who think the space race is over is set to be proven wrong by Japan very, very soon. Kirobo, a small humanoid robot that is capable of talking and conversing with humans in space and on the ground, is slated to be the world’s first talking robot in space when it launches to the International Space Station (ISS) on August 4. Once in the ISS, Kirobo, whose name comes from the Japanese word “kibo”, meaning hope, and the word “robot”, will be taking part in the first robot-to-human conversation in space.

According to Yorichika Nishijima, Kirobo Project Manager,

“Russia was the first to go outer space, the U.S. was the first to go to the moon, we want Japan to be the first to send a robot-astronaut to space that can communicate with humans.”

Kirobo, which measures a mere 13.4 inches, is equipped with voice-recognition technology, natural language processing, facial and emotion recognition and a camera that was designed in partnership with Toyota. When asked what is its dream, Kirobo replies,

“I want to help create a world where humans and robots can live together.”

A second communications robot, named Mirata, was also developed alongside Kirobo and will remain on earth during the duration of the latter’s space mission. Almost identical in function with Kirobo, Mirata will enable engineers and scientists on earth to troubleshoot any problems that should arise with Kirobo while in space.

Although scheduled to speak in space for the very first time in August, the much anticipated first conversation between machine and humans will take place around November or December, when veteran Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata arrives at the space station. Kirobo is expected to return to earth in December of next year.

On August 4, Kirobo will be launched aboard an unmanned H2 Transfer Vehicle-4 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Southern Japan. Aside from Toyota Motor Corporation, Kirobo was jointly developed by the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo, Robo Garage and Dentsu Inc.

Source: Space.com

Advertisements

“Facebook Reader” Is Real, But It’s Not RSS Or A Google Reader Wannabe

Facebook continues the surge… Reader is up next!

Lazada celebrates its 1st birthday with $100M funding and its first mobile app

Lazada, arguably one of the biggest online retailers in Southeast Asia, just celebrated its first year anniversary with a bang. Joining existing investors Holtzbrinck Ventures, Kinnevik, Summit Partners and Tengelmann Group, Verlinvest, a Belgian holding company, invests an additional $100M into the website’s parent company in Germany.

After only a year since its introduction, Lazada just surpassed 1M online orders. This is where Verlinvest Chairman Frédéric de Mevius gets his confidence in the venture. According to him, “we are thrilled to join Lazada as a partner of Rocket Internet and an investor, the company’s scale and achievements after only one year of operations are highly impressive. Given the management’s track record and the region’s macro outlook we are very confident in Lazada’s future.”

A large chunk of the Verlinvest funding will be used to further improve delivery time and customer satisfaction with the company. To accomplish this, Lazada will be investing in its IT infrastructure in the foreseeable future. Complementing this strategy is the company’s announcement of its new mobile application to provide its customers a fast and intuitive shopping experience even on-the-go. Already available in Android and coming soon in iOS, the app uses an advanced internal search engine to allow users to explore products by categories, brands, price and more. Using the app, customers are able to discover amazing deals and discount vouchers to use, not to mention exclusive updates on special promos and offerings.

For Android phone users, you may download the app from the Google Play Store here.

NSFW: The World’s First Kinect Porn

Spanish artist Alejandro Gomez-Arias is one great pioneer. No, he is not a scientist or an industrialist/inventor. Nevertheless, he and his girlfriend have ushered a new era in digital media and film. Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you, the world’s first Kinect Porn.

Using Kinect, which was originally developed for video games, he was able to shoot an explicit yet abstract short film titled Love Is All. His 4:30 long film was recently on display at a popup exhibition in Williamsburg, and features a brief strip tease and a variety of sexual positions between a young couple. However, unlike any other porn you might’ve already watched, this one is pixelated, with only hazes of flesh-colored dots arranged into skeletal polygons giving you the impression that something else is happening on the background. If you know what I mean.

The dots that make up the actors’ bodies are derived from Kinect’s infrared camera, which was originally designed for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 system to allow players to interact with their games by jumping around their living rooms, no controller needed.

Kinect uses a technique called structured light to judge where the player is. The machine projects a known geometric pattern in infrared light on to the area it’s scanning and detects how the pattern deforms when hitting objects in space, calculating depth and distance through a triangulation process in conjunction with a normal camera.

Source: Animal New York

Mac OS X Mavericks, coming later this year!

Aside from iOS 7, the new MacBook Air, the redesigned Mac Pro and Anki’s amazingly fun AI-powered iOS game, Apple also announced the Mac OS X Mavericks at last Monday’s WWDC 2013. And from the looks of it, there are a lot to be excited about the company’s new desktop operating system that is set to be released later this year alongside iOS 7. For a quick rundown of the software’s specifications and features, see the official marketing material below taken from Apple’s website.

Continue reading

Anki: bringing AI closer to YOU

Anki_DRIVE_Horizontal_Car

Last Monday, at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, a five-year-old startup company called Anki delivered a keynote address about their new app Anki Drive. It is a racing game that pits real cars against players and each other with your iOS device serving as a controller. Although seemingly amusing and innocent at first, most of us would probably miss the bigger picture of such innovation: the company is bridging the gap between artificial intelligence (AI) and real life. As Anki’s Boris Sofman puts it,

“We’re passionate about AI and robotics, and we know these advanced technologies are more than just science fiction. We want to harness them, to interact with them, to be entertained by them, and use them to do things that have simply never been done before. We believe the time is right to bring AI out of robotics labs and research institutions and into life.”

According to the company’s official blog, Anki Drive is the first video game that actually runs in the real world. Each toy car is said to be equipped with sensors and intelligent software that makes thousands of decisions every second — similar to the algorithmic calculations a human being does while driving. Sofman adds,

“When we look at Anki Drive, we see the first steps of the future of robotics and artificial intelligence being realized. We see an entertainment experience transformed today, and we see countless possibilities in the future.”

Anki Drive will be available this Fall exclusively on iOS.Before its release, the app is available for download on the App Store for users wishing to better understand the technology behind the game. Everybody is also welcome to sign up for a spot on the game’s beta program.

About the company:
Based in San Francisco, Anki is dedicated to bringing artificial intelligence and robotics to our everyday lives. The company was founded in 2010 by Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute graduates who sought to create new consumer experiences using technology that was once confined to robotics labs and research institutes. Its first product, Anki Drive, will be available in North America later this Fall. The company is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures and Two Sigma. Anki (pronounced AHN-key) means “to learn by heart.” To learn more about Anki, Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or subscribe to us on YouTube.
 

Source: Anki

 

What to Consider When Buying a Laptop

While tablets get all the attention these days, there’s a reason why laptops continue to be the computing device of choice for most people. Laptops offer real keyboards for faster typing, they’re better at multitasking, and they offer a lot more power for everything from editing video and creating PowerPoints to playing the latest games. So what type of laptop should you get?

There’s a wide variety of sizes, features and prices, which makes choosing the right laptop a challenge. That’s why you need to figure out what your needs are. To make the right call, just follow these eight tips.

1. Mac or Windows?

This is not an easy question to answer, especially if you’ve never considered making the switch from Windows to Mac. But this quick overview of each platform’s strengths and weaknesses should help.

Windows 8

Windows notebooks are generally more affordable (starting under $400) and offer a much wider range of design choices from more than a dozen major vendors. Unlike Apple, Microsoft and its partners allow users to buy notebooks with touch screens, as well as convertible designs that let you easily transform from notebook to tablet mode.

If you’re used to the Windows interface, but haven’t tried Windows 8, you may be in for a jarring surprise. The new OS has replaced the Start menu with a tile-based start screen and a raft of new full-screen, touch-friendly apps. However, Windows 8 still has a desktop mode for running all your existing apps. Many vendors offer Windows 7 as an option if you custom configure your notebook online.

In general, Windows notebooks provide more business-friendly features such as biometric and smartcard verification and Intel vPro systems management.

Apple OS X Mountain Lion

Apple’s MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros offer an easy-to-use operating system in OS X Mountain Lion. In fact, some say Mountain Lion is easier to navigate than the newer and bolder Windows 8. MacBooks offer iOS-like features such as Launch Pad for your apps, superior multitouch gestures, and Auto Save and Resume so you can pick up on your work right where you left off.

MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros also tend to outclass most Windows machines when it comes to industrial design, the touchpad and display quality. While Windows PCs offer more software choices, Apple makes it easier to find and install programs with the Mac App Store. However, Apple’s notebooks start at $999.

2. Choose the Right Size

Before you decide anything else, you need to figure out just how portable you need your laptop to be. Laptops are usually categorized by their display sizes:

11 to 12 inches: The thinnest and lightest systems around have 11- to 12-inch screens and typically weigh 3 to 3.5 pounds. However, at this size, the screen and keyboard will be a bit too cramped for some users.

13 to 14 inches: Provides the best balance of portability and usability. Laptops with 13- or 14-inch screens usually weigh between 3.5 and 4.5 pounds and fit easily on your lap while still providing generously sized keyboards and screens. Shoot for a system with a total weight under 4 pounds, if possible.

15 inches: The most popular size, 15-inch laptops are usually quite bulky and heavy at 5 to 6.5 pounds, but also cost the least. If you’re not planning to carry your notebook around often or use it on your lap, a 15-inch system could be a good deal for you. Some 15-inch models have DVD drives, but you’ll save weight if you skip it.

17 to 18 inches: If your laptop stays on your desk all day every day, a 17- or 18-inch system could provide you with the kind of processing power you need to play high-end games or do workstation-level productivity. Because of their girth, laptops this size can pack in high-voltage quad-core CPUs, power-hungry graphics chips and multiple storage drives. Just don’t think about carrying these 7 pound-plus systems anywhere.

3. Check That Keyboard and Touchpad

The most impressive specs in the world don’t mean diddly if the laptop you’re shopping for doesn’t have good ergonomics. Does the keyboard have solid tactile feedback and enough space between the keys? Is the touchpad smooth to operate or jumpy? Do the mouse buttons have a satisfying click, or do they feel mushy? How well do multitouch gestures work? You should be able to zoom in and out with ease, as well as select text with the touchpad without the cursor skipping around.

If you’re shopping for a Windows 8 notebook, test the touchpad to make sure that gestures don’t activate accidentally as you get close to the edges.

In general, Apple and Lenovo offer the best keyboards and touchpads. Dell and HP are generally pretty reliable in this category, too.

4. Know Your Specs

Notebook specs such as CPU, hard drive, RAM and graphics chip can confuse even notebook aficionados, so don’t feel bad if spec sheets look like alphabet soup to you. What you need really depends on what you plan to do with your laptop. More intensive tasks such as 3D gaming and HD video-editing require more expensive components.

Here are the main components to keep an eye on.

  • CPU: The least expensive laptops on the market have AMD E Series or Intel Pentium CPUs, which will struggle to handle serious productivity or media tasks but can handle Web surfing. Don’t settle for less than an Intel Core i3 CPU or AMD A Series. If you’re spending more than $500, demand at least an Intel Core i5 CPU, which is capable of increasing its clock speed dynamically when you need more performance. Power users and gamers should settle for no less than Core i7 system, preferably a quad-core chip.
  • RAM: When it comes to memory, or RAM, even the cheapest notebooks have 4GB these days so don’t settle for less. If you can get a system with 6 or 8GB, you’ll be better prepared for high-end applications and lots of multitasking.
  • Hard Drive: For most users, a fast drive is more important than a large one. If you have a choice, go for a 7,200-rpm hard drive over a 5,400-rpm unit. Even if you have several movies and games on your hard drive, a 320GB should provide more than enough space, but 500GB or 750GB drives usually don’t cost much more.
  • Flash Cache: Any Ultrabook and some other notebooks come with 8, 16 or 32GB flash caches you can use to increase performance. While not as fast as an SSD, a flash cache will help boost load and boot times while allowing you to store all your data on a large hard drive.
  • Solid State Drives (SSDs): These drives cost quite a bit more than traditional hard drives and come with less capacity (usually 128 to 256GB), but they dramatically improve performance. You’ll enjoy faster boot times, faster resume times, and faster application open times. Plus, because SSDs don’t have moving parts such as mechanical drives, failure is much less of an issue.
  • Display: The more pixels you have, the more content you can fit on-screen, and the sharper it will look. Most budget and mainstream notebooks come with 1366 x 768-pixel resolutions. However, if you have the option, choose a laptop with a higher pixel count 1600 x 900 or 1920 x 1080 —always go for the highest res you can get. You’ll see more of your favorite Web pages, multitask better and have a better movie-watching experience. Full HD panels (1920 x 1080) cost about $150 more than your typical display, but are worth the splurge, especially on larger screens.
  • Touch Screen: Windows 8 is simply more fun and immersive with a touch screen, but if your laptop is not a hybrid with a bendable or rotatable screen, you can probably live without it. Though you can get a touch-screen system for under $500 these days, the difference in price between similarly configured systems with and without touch is $100 to $150.
  • Graphics Chip: For the most part, an integrated graphics chip (one that shares system memory) will be fine for basic tasks, including surfing the Web, watching video and even playing some mainstream games. But a discrete graphics processor from AMD or Nvidia (which has dedicated video memory) will provide better performance when it comes to the most-demanding games. Plus, a good GPU can accelerate video playback on sites such as Hulu, as well as speed up video editing.As with CPUs there are both high- and low-end graphics chips. Nvidia maintains a list of its graphics chips from low to high end as does AMD. In general, workstations and gaming notebooks will have the best GPUs, including dual graphics on the most expensive systems.
  • DVD/Blu-ray Drives. Fewer and fewer laptops these days come with optical drives. That’s because you can download most software and download or stream video from the Web. Unless you burn discs or want to watch Blu-ray movies, you don’t need one of these drives and can save as much as half a pound of weight by avoiding them. At this point, DVD drives are a safety blanket.

5. Hybrid or Traditional Notebook?

Since the launch of Windows 8, we’ve seen a number of hybrid laptop designs that double as tablets. These include the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, which has a screen that bends back 360 degrees to turn into a slate, tablets that pop off of their keyboards like the HP Envy x2 and notebooks with slide-out keyboards like the Sony VAIO Duo 11.

In most cases, these devices don’t provide as good of a slate experience as dedicated tablets or as strong of a notebook experience as clamshell-only devices. If you like the idea of occasionally using your laptop in slate mode, a convertible like the Yoga is a versatile choice. But if you want the flexibility of using your device as standalone tablet, a detachable design is best.

6. Don’t Skimp on Battery Life

Even if you only plan to move your laptop from the desk to the couch and the bed or from your cubicle to the conference room, battery life matters. Nobody wants to be chained to a power outlet, even if there’s a socket within reach. If you’re buying a 15-inch notebook, look for at least 4 hours of endurance. Those who plan to be fairly mobile should shop for notebooks that offer more than 5 hours of battery life, with 6-plus hours being ideal.

If given the choice, pay extra for an extended battery; you won’t regret it. Keep in mind that some notebooks (such as the MacBook Air) feature sealed batteries that you can’t easily upgrade yourself.

To determine a notebook’s expected battery life, read third-party results from objective sources rather than taking the manufacturer’s word for it. Your actual battery life will vary depending on your screen brightness and what tasks you perform (video eats more juice than Web surfing).

7. How Much Can You Get for Your Money?

These days, you can buy a usable laptop for under $500, but if you can budget more, you’ll get a system with better build quality, longer battery life, a sharper screen and stronger performance. Here’s what you can get for each price point.

  • $400 to $600: For well under $600, you can get a notebook with an Intel Core i5 or AMD A8 CPU, 4 to 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive, all respectable specs. However, at this price point, most notebooks have cheap plastic chassis, low-res screens and weak battery life. However, at this price point, most notebooks have cheap plastic chassis, low-res screens and weak battery life, but you can occasionally find a touch screen.
  • $600 to $800: As you get above $600, you’ll start to see more premium designs, such as metal finishes. Manufacturers also start to add in other features as you climb the price ladder, including better audio and backlit keyboards. You may also be able to get a screen with a resolution that’s 1600 x 900 or higher and a flash cache.
  • Above $800: At this price range, expect notebooks that are more portable, more powerful or both. Expect higher resolution screens, faster processors and possibly discrete graphics. The lightest, longest-lasting ultraportables like the MacBook Air and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 carbon tend to cost more than $1,000. High-end gaming systems and mobile workstations usually cost upward of $1,500 or even as much as $2,500 or $3,000.

8. The Brand Matters

Your laptop is only as good as the company that stands behind it. Accurate and timely technical support is paramount.

Support is only part of what makes a notebook brand worth your money. You also have to consider how the manufacturer stacks up to the competition in terms of design, value and selection, review performance, and other criteria.

Editor’s Note: Article directly reposted from blog.laptopmag.com. The original article was written by Mark Spoonauer. No copyright infringement intended.

Apple’s WWDC 2013 updates

iPhone5-PF-Pyramid_Features_PRINT

Finally, after much speculations, anticipation and buildup, the WWDC 2013 launched today a number of great news and updates regarding Apple’s software and hardware products that would surely excite and energize the wide and loyal fanbase of the Cupertino-based company.

As expected, major updates to both iOS and OS X were announced at today’s press conference. Skeumorphism was almost nearly abandoned on both operating systems, with Apple executives joking about the felt, stitching and leather textures featured in the older versions of the operating systems. The latest OS X, steering away from the feline naming convention that we were accustomed to, is now dubbed Mavericks. In many ways, the company’s announcement of the many software tweaks of its operating systems further exemplifies Apple catching up to the industry design norms today. As far as hardware goes, a new line of cheaper MacBook Airs sporting Intel’s new Haswell processors were announced, as well as the long-anticipated redesign of the Mac Pro Desktop. However, there were no signs of the much rumored iWatch. Want more details on WWDC 2013? Read on to find out more!

Hardware

macbook-air-press

With a number of laptops now sporting Intel’s new Haswell processors, the company also announced a refreshed line of MacBook Airs that will be using the said chip. Comes with the announcement are promises of dramatic battery improvements, with an 11-inch Air now expected to get 9hours of battery life, and the 13-inch with 12hours. A 40% boost on graphics processing power is also to be expected, says Apple. Shipping today starts for the new Airs, with SRPs of $999 for the 11-inch variant and $1,099 for the 13-inch one.

mac-pro-2013

A newly redesigned Mac Pro was also announced in WWDC 2013. It now comes with dual AMD GPUs, claiming 7 teraflops of performance and supports Thunderbolt2 and 4K displays. The high-end desktop is also several inches shorter and thinner than the previous version. The machine is slated to come later this year and is being manufactured in the US.

airport-extreme-2013

Lastly, the AirPort Extreme router and Time Capsule backup, Apple’s pair of internet peripherals were also updated, with next generation 802.11ac Wi-Fi (which is said to offer 1.3Gbps of throughput) being added to both. Airport Extreme is available now for $199, while 2TB and 3TB versions of the new Time Capsule will be available for $299 and $399, respectively.

iOS 7

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

iOS 7 got an overall interface overhaul from Jony Ive. Keeping the same basic structure of iOS, the new and improved operating system now features redesigned icons that have a flatter and more stylized look. Gradients were stripped out and the whole UI’s palette was given a brighter and simpler tone. Scrolling through the menus and apps also provides a subtle parallax feel. Fonts were also slimmed down, and a new version of the classic slide-to-unlock function of iOS was also introduced.

A translucent panel dubbed Control Center now slides up from the bottom for quick access to frequently used settings such as Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, flashlight, and rotation lock. You can also adjust brightness, manage music playback, and connect to AirPlay or AirDrop on the panel. Touch gestures will also be more utilized in iOS 7 with its reliance on more swiping and pinching. More so, folders are now capable of storing unlimited apps.

As far as multitasking goes for iOS 7, it is now similar to how webOS and Windows Phone behaves. Double-tapping the home button gives you large thumbnails of your apps with identifying icons underneath them. You can scroll horizontally through them, with three available on the screen at a time.

The Notification Center has also been overhauled in iOS 7. Now, the operating system allows you to access notifications from the lock screen. Notifications are now also synced between devices so there is no more need to dismiss the same update multiple times. The top of the new Notification Center features three tabs, “today,” “all,” and “missed.” The first is a bit reminiscent of Google Now: it gives you a heads-up on what’s coming up today, with calendar appointments, weather, birthday notifications, stock prices, and more. The pull-down menu is now transparent, and it features the new fonts and swipe interactions we’ve seen in the rest of the updated operating system.

Bringing the same feature from the Mac, AirDrop is a new way to share files over Wi-Fi on iOS. Initially available on the iPhone 5, it is a secure and encrypted means to transfer files from one iPhone to another. AirDrop could be configured to accept files from other people on the same network or just your contacts.

Taking design and functionality cues from other advanced apps, the Photos app on iOS automatically organizes photographs into categories called “moments”, which is based on where and when the images were taken. Photos will be then correspondingly labeled based on the moment they’re in. Increased emphasis on sharing is also evident on the redesigned app, with photos now possible to be automatically cropped into a square shape for Instagram uploads. Photostreams can also now be shared, which allows users to create streams that friends could add photos into.

The App Store, not to be left behind, is now hooked into the phone’s GPS to offer app suggestions based on your current location. More so, app updates are now made automatic similar to Android. Siri also got an overhaul, with the new version coming with male or female voice options that are both more natural-sounding than the previous one. Support for several languages is provided, as well as multiple data sources for Siri. Now, Wikipedia and Twitter could be searched for queries, with Bing coming in as Apple’s search partner for pulling web results.

Not to be outdone by other streaming music services, Apple also launched today the iTunes Radio, a free albeit ad-based streaming music service that offers radio stations similar to other competing services. However, what sets Apple’s version apart is that iTunes Radio is geared more toward song purchases rather than purely streaming music. The initial version of the service is integrated into the Music app and offers selected radio stations that can be shared with your friends.

Lastly, Apple today announced that its latest iOS version will be sporting turn-by-turn directions and expanded vehicle options. A new system, dubbed “iOS in the Car”, is set to mirror your iPhone on the display found on your car, which means maps, Siri, messages and the like will be directly available to you from the car’s dashboard. However, we would have to wait before fully benefitting from this, as manufacturers will begin adding the feature to their cars in 2014.

OS X 10.9 Mavericks

MBPRD15-PF_Mavericks-Features_PRINT

For OS X, a number of optimizations and revamps are incorporated to OS X 10.9. First, Navigation is a big focus in Mavericks. For the first time in OS X, Finder windows would not be cluttering your desktop as the new OS now supports browser-style tabs. Tags could also now be used to simplify search and organization of files.

The leather and felt interfaces of previous OS X versions have now been stripped away. The new Calendar features a flatter and softer feel, with the Game Center, phone and messaging apps undergoing the same aesthetic changes. iBooks, which was previously available only in iOS, is also coming to OS X.

Apple Maps, initially one of the more embarrassing pieces of Apple software, has gotten some attention with a desktop version for OS X and an SDK that lets developers add Apple Maps directly to their Mac apps. Desktop and mobile maps are integrated with the option to push directions to an iPhone.

Multiple display support has been fixed in Mavericks, with the Mission Control tool being redesigned to focus more on extra and extended displays. Now you can use two fullscreen apps at once, and if you have an Apple TV, the new features can extend to your television as well with AirPlay.

Notifications similar to iOS also come to OS X 10.9. Now, you can quickly reply directly from a notification without having to open the specific app. Push notifications from your iOS device can also be received directly on your Mac computer.

This year also marks dramatic changes Safari will be sporting. The redesigned browser features a new sidebar that will hold bookmarks, but it will also integrate reading lists as well as links shared by friends on Twitter and LinkedIn, turning it into a limited client for your social networks. In terms of sheer performance, Apple showed off a set of benchmarks putting Safari on top of its other competitors. More so, Macs and iOS devices will have access to a new feature called iCloud Keychain that can remember passwords and credit card information to auto-suggest them in Safari.

Editor’s Note: An article similar to this one also appears at TechGeeze.com, as only one writer contributed for both coverages. No copyright infringement intended.

What is PRISM?

Quite recently, there have been news and rumors circulating all over the internet about PRISM. According to articles published by the Washington Post and the Guardian, PRISM is a covert collaboration between the NSA, FBI and the many tech companies we depend on daily. Fancy naming aside, it is actually a real US government program that is said to have started in 2007 to monitor potentially valuable foreign communications that could pass through US servers.

With the help of companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Apple and the like, the US government is able to access tremendous wealth of data and communications that passes through the companies’ servers. These information are then cascaded to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit which in turn reports to the NSA.

Documents describing the previously undisclosed program, obtained by the Washington Post, show the breadth of U.S. electronic surveillance capabilities in the wake of a widely publicized controversy over warrantless wiretapping of U.S. domestic telephone communications in 2005. See a handful of these documents in the screenshots below:

A slide briefing analysts at the National Security Agency about the program touts its effectiveness and features the logos of the companies involved.

This diagram shows how the bulk of the world’s electronic communications move through companies based in the United States.

The PRISM program collects a wide range of data from the nine companies, although the details vary by provider.

This slide shows when each company joined the program, with Microsoft being the first, on Sept. 11, 2007, and Apple the most recent, in October 2012.

Which means, basically, PRISM has allowed the US government unprecedented access to each and everyone’s personal information for the last six years. That includes chats, emails, pictures, videos and calls. Everything that makes up our online identity.  Scary, isn’t it?

Well, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, there is nothing to worry about PRISM. He writes:

The Guardian and The Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They contain numerous inaccuracies.

Section 702 is a provision of FISA that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons located outside the United States. It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.

Activities authorized by Section 702 are subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. They involve extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons.

Section 702 was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.

Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.

The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.

From what he wrote above, Clapper basically assures everyone that the US government’s PRISM program is totally legal and very important to ensure protection of US citizens (and to some degree, the subscribers and users of all the tech companies they have been tapping the last 6 years) from a variety of threats.

Not contented? To further ease the tension caused by the news about PRISM, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and just recently, Facebook, have published their individual albeit seemingly rehearsed press releases regarding the matter. Says Mark Zuckerberg in his personal FB page:

I want to respond personally to the outrageous press reports about PRISM:

Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. And if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We hadn’t even heard of PRISM before yesterday.

When governments ask Facebook for data, we review each request carefully to make sure they always follow the correct processes and all applicable laws, and then only provide the information if is required by law. We will continue fighting aggressively to keep your information safe and secure.

We strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe. It’s the only way to protect everyone’s civil liberties and create the safe and free society we all want over the long term.

From all these recent developments, maybe there is just one thing we should take note: the world we live in today has become increasingly connected and social that privacy and security as concepts have evolved and taken a slightly different definition. With the continuous growth and development of computing, internet and telco technologies, it is naive of us to think that the government (and to some extent, other malicious or criminal organizations) cannot and will not access the “personal” and “private” information that we share amongst our friends and the community. Hence, we as citizens of the web should be more responsible and aware of the things that we do, say, hear and share. With the help of today’s technology, the world is more open than ever before, and it is simply up to us if we would not be vigilant and allow other groups or individuals to bypass our personal privacy.

Best Speaker Docks for your Lightning Connector

Do you have the newest iPhone 5 or iPad Mini, and wondering what accessories to pair with your device? A few weeks ago, we’ve featured a handful of alternative chargers for your iOS devices. And while those are pretty interesting, speaker docks are more utilitarian and enjoyable addons. The problem, however, with Apple’s newest gadgets, is that the Lightning connector they have been promoting isn’t necessarily a favorite amongst accessory manufacturers. As such, only a handful of quality speaker docks compatible with the new connectivity port are available in the market today. Which one to choose and which one to pass up? We’ve compiled the best we’ve seen so far to help you out. Enjoy!

B&W Z2

B&W Z2 (SRP: P18,500)

Bower & Wilkins have been chugging out quality iPhone docks since 2008 with their introduction of the Zeppelin. Since then, they have released the Zeppelin Mini and the Zeppelin Air. Now, they are introducing the Z2 which is already Lightning-ready.

Bose SoundDock Series III

Bose SoundDock Series III (SRP: P10,500)

With an SRP of P10,500, this speaker dock is in the same league as the B&W Z2. However, coming from Bose, you are surely going to enjoy its high-fidelity sound on a compact package. Also comes with a remote control for better usability.

iLuv Aud 5

iLuv Aud 5 (SRP: TBA)

Announced during CES2013, the iLuve Aud 5 sports touch-sensitive controls, a fancy alternative to the usual approach of other manufacturers.

JBL OnBeat Micro

JBL OnBeat Micro (SRP: P4,500)

The JBL OnBeat Micro is for those who are looking for a compact speaker dock. Weighing only 360grams, it runs either on AC power or on 4 AAA batteries.

JBL OnBeat Rumble

JBL OnBeat Rumble (SRP: P17,000)

Another one from JBL, this one’s a tad expensive with its P17,000 price tag. However, performance can surely be expected with its 11watt full-range drivers and 4.5inch subwoofer. More so, the JBL OnBeat Rumble may be returned to the manufacturer at no extra costs should you feel that it performs poorly than expected.

JBL OnBeat Venue

JBL OnBeat Venue (SRP: P8,500)

For a nice balance of price and performance, JBL is offering this midrange speaker dock: the JBL OnBeat Venue. Priced at P8,500, this one provides up to 30watts of output power in a compact-enough form factor.

Philips Bedroom Docking Speaker

Philips Bedroom Docking Speaker (SRP: TBA)

Designed to be placed inside the bedroom, this one comes equipped with an alarm clock. According to Philips, the speaker projects sound in 360degrees, which should be good news if you want music to properly fill your room.

Philips Lifestyle Music System

Philips Lifestyle Music System (SRP: TBA)

More expensive than the Bedroom Docking Speaker, this one features a CD player and an FM radio. The Philips Lifestyle Music System also boasts a total of 20watts of output power.

Philips Portable Docking Speaker

Philips Portable Docking Speaker (SRP: P5,500)

Meant to be carried around, this speaker features a rechargeable battery. A decent alternative to JBL’s OnBeat Micro.

Philips Room to Room Docking Speaker

Philips Room to Room Docking Speaker (SRP: P5,500)

Similarly priced to the Philips Portable Docking Speaker, this one offers more power output together with a more balanced frequency response.

Soundfreaq Sound Step

Soundfreaq Sound Step (SRP: TBA)

And last but not least is the redesigned Sound Step by Soundfreaq, which the company announced a few months ago and then brought over to CES 2013.

Source: Phone Arena, Stuff

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives