The Public Access Weekly: Everybody knows

This week, in lieu of an opening paragraph we have some warm and fuzzy GIFs:

And now, as promised last week, on to the Public Access stats from last month!

  • 455 posts went live on Public Access in October — That handily beats Septembers numbers (326) and is more than double August’s tally (217). It also sets a new record for the most Public Access posts ever for the sixth month running! Y’all are literally knocking it out of the park here.
  • 132 total Public Access members wrote and published stories, including 54 new members. Welcome to all those new members!
  • The Public Access member with the most posts published in October is Jagadeesh Dk with a total of 19 articles published. Second place is a tie between Lisa Rachel and Dimitar Najdenov who each published 17; Karthik Krishnan rounds up third with 15 posts published.

The top 10 most read Public Access posts for August (not counting the Public Access Weekly posts) were:

  1. Why Startups Are More Efficient at Product Development than Large Corporations by Karthik Krishnan
  2. Since 2012, The Netflix Library Has Been Cut in Half by Rob Toledo
  3. Where does Samsung go from here? by Matt Porter
  4. Teaching Computers to Understand Language by Karthik Krishnan
  5. Why Kindle 5 is Still My Favorite Gadget by Victor Iryniuk
  6. 3 Companies Using Technology to Disrupt the Music Industry by Brian Horvath
  7. Nokia says it can deliver internet 2,000 times faster than Verizon Fios by Chris Brantner
  8. Chinese company threatens to fire anyone who buys iPhone 7 by Andre Smith
  9. The Role of Social Media in Government by Jeff Klein
  10. Why Boeing will beat Elon Musk in the Race to Mars by Lindsey Patterson

That’s the good news. The bad news is I also had to remove roughly 45 articles, ban four members and change 6 members author status for violating our posted rules and guidelines. So if you are a Public Access member, go here to read the rules. Learn them, love them, live them because we are enforcing them.

Looking for something to read? Check out:

Joshua Thompson’s first article for Public Access examines the connection between Apple’s recently announced MacBook Touch Bar and ideas that were kicked around Microsoft’s applied sciences division years ago.

Another first-time poster, Oliver McAteer, ponders whether or not Amazon’s attempt to handle its problems with extremely shady reviews will prove to be a successful fix by highlighting services that claim to identify fake reviews, discussing the role that incentivized reviews play in the service and the steps the company has taken so far.

If you still haven’t changed your Yahoo password, reading Troy Lambert’s article on data breaches and corporate responsibility may motivate you to do so — Lambert discusses a few high profile 2016 cyber attacks, the resulting fall out for consumers and corporations alike and what consumers have a right to expect when it comes to their online data.

Looking for something to write about? Mull over:

This was obviously a big week in United States politics, with Mark Zuckerberg taking the time to chime in about the role Facebook may (or may not) have had on influencing the election. Do you think social media sites like Facebook played a role in this years political processes? If so, how? And, bonus question, is that a good thing or not?

Sean Buckley reviews the NES Classic Edition, making me nostalgic for the days when I would spend hours racing through Super Mario levels. Buckley says the throw-back console encompasses both the best and worst of retro gaming — his qualms largely center around unnecessarily short controller cables. If you’re a retro gaming fan, tell us what your favorite video game nostalgia trip is: Galaga? Double Dragon? Oregon Trail? Alternatively, weigh in on whether or not retro gaming love is ruining the industry.

Aaron Souppouris calls RunGunJumpGun a “damn-near perfect mobile game” with intelligent level design. What makes a ‘perfect’ mobile game? Which mobile game have you been really impressed by (or addicted to), and why?
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Microsoft’s iOS app augments hues for color-blind folks

Color Binoculars landed on the App Store today, promising to infuse the real world with color for anyone with the three most common forms of color blindness. This isn’t the first app designed to help color-blind folks see a broader spectrum of colors, but it comes from two Microsoft software engineers (one of whom is color blind), and its straightforward filter method is simple to use.

The app uses the iPhone camera to adjust colors in a way that makes them easier to distinguish for color-blind people. The enhanced image shows up on the iPhone screen, allowing users to pick out flowers, choose matching outfits or take in the beauty of fall, for example.

Tom Overton and Tingting Zhu started working on Color Binoculars during Microsoft’s 2015 Hackathon and they finished it in the company’s Garage program, which helps experimental apps go public. Overton is color blind, so he was both a developer and the app’s main tester.

Tom Overton and Tingting Zhu (Image credit: Scott Eklund / Red Box Pictures)

“It’s an app that helps color blind people distinguish color combinations that they would normally have trouble telling apart,” Overton tells the Microsoft blog. “For example, since I have difficulty distinguishing between red and green, our app makes reds brighter and greens darker so that the difference is more obvious. It replaces difficult color combinations, like red and green, with more easily distinguishable combinations, like pink and green.”

Source: Microsoft

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Google’s defense against anti-trust claims: ‘we’re open’

Google has a response for the European Commission’s anti-trust allegations. In a lengthy blog post, the tech juggernaut addressed the EC’s concerns point by point. That starts with the EC’s stance that Android isn’t in competition with Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, and Google citing the Commission’s own research that 89 percent of survey respondents feel that the two are competitors. That last bit is a recurring theme, with Google pointing toward the survey responses for the EC’s stance on Android’s “stable and consistent framework” across devices as well.

In perhaps the most poignant response, Google made a GIF that illustrates how many apps are typically pre-installed/bundled on Android devices versus the competition — something the EC directly called out. By Mountain View’s count, of the Samsung Galaxy S7 with Android 6.0.1’s 38 pre-installed apps, only 11 were from Google. Contrast that with 39 out of 47 on the Lumia 550 from Microsoft and 39 out of 39 from Apple on the iPhone 7 running iOS 10.0.2.

“Android hasn’t hurt competition, it’s expanded it,” Google’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker said in a statement. “Android is the most flexibe mobile platform out there, balancing the needs of thousands of manufacturers and operators, millions of app developers and more than a billion consumers.

“Upsetting this balance would raise prices and hamper innovation, choice and competition. That wouldn’t just be a bad outcome for us. It would be a bad outcome for the entire ecosystem, and — most critically — for consumers.”

And with that, the battle moves onward. Maybe the EC’s stance won’t leak ahead of the next round. Maybe.

Source: Google

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You can now tell Siri to send money via PayPal

Siri is still very much a walled garden, but Apple has slowly begun opening its voice assistant to third parties. At its WWDC keynote back in June, the company confirmed app makers could let iPhone and iPad users send and receive money via Siri, with Square Cash and Monzo becoming the first to tap into that functionality. Now, bigger players are tapping into hands-free money transfers, after PayPal announced it too now lets users in over 30 countries send and request money via using only their voice.

Sending and receiving is very easy, but you’ll first need to link Siri with your PayPal account. This involves granting PayPal access to your Contacts and confirming via two-factor authentication (a code sent via text message) that you are who you say you are. Once that’s done, you can simply say “Send Alice $ 20 using PayPal” and Siri will display a card summarizing the details of your request before asking you to confirm or cancel the transfer. The device must be unlocked first, so friends won’t be able to steal your phone and send themselves money.

The feature is now live in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, UK, United Arab Emirates and the United States. It supports a variety of languages and recognizes your friends’ accounts by either their email address or phone number.

Source: PayPal Blog

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Even breastfeeding is getting quantified thanks to Momsense

The health benefits of breastfeeding are well-known, yet for various reasons, many new mothers quit after a few months. Maybe they don’t have the time, they find it uncomfortable or they believe that the baby just isn’t getting enough milk. A new product called Momsense is taking aim at this last problem with a product and app that can keep track of how much a baby is actually drinking, hopefully putting mom’s worries at ease.

We live in an age of smart baby cribs, scales and onesies so it seems only natural that something like breastfeeding would be next. Newborns can nurse eight to twelve times a day, meaning there’s a lot of data for moms to keep track of. So why not delegate it to an app? And, rather than ask moms to guess how much the baby drank (which is what traditional pen-and-paper methods demand), the Momsense’s small sensor handles that task.

The Momsense attaches to the baby, not the mom: It’s a small circle that the mother places under the child’s ear, along their jawline. The Momsense functions similar to a stethoscope, listening to the sound of the baby’s swallows to determine how much the baby is drinking. It’s also smart enough to tell the difference between a real swallow and random gurgles or half gulps. Mom can also listen in thanks to the attached headphones, so she’s not ceding all responsibility to the app — she can still take action if something’s wrong, or she may just feel reassured having all that sensory data available.

I don’t have children, so the sounds in the demo I checked out were a little too visceral for me, but I can see how they might benefit a new mom. By making breastfeeding more immersive, the Momsense monitor might help mothers bond with their offspring even more.

What lifts the Momsense beyond just an ordinary stethoscope is the app that keeps track of all this data being generated. Unlike most health-tracking apps, Momsense isn’t built around a particular goal. Even though it keeps track of feeding time and quantity, it doesn’t say “your baby needs this much milk” or “your baby should feed for this long.” Every baby is different, and adding any kind of metric just puts unnecessary pressure on the mother.

To that point, the app doesn’t present its data like a fitness app would. Fitness apps tend to focus on bar or line graphs a lot, which lets a person easily compare progress over a given period of time. Momsense eschews comparisons by displaying each day as a circle with each feeding as a small bubble that sort of “orbits” around it like a moon around a planet. The larger the bubble, the more consumed during each feeding, and you can click on it to see more details like time spent and a breakdown by individual breast.

The Momsense connects to phones via a traditional headphone jack (sorry iPhone 7 users), so it’s easy enough to just get started and never have to worry about the signal dropping out. When a mom starts a session the Momsense app displays a weird design of interlocking circles that pulses in time with the baby’s swallows. The design feels reminiscent of mammary glands and I personally found it a bit unsettling, but mothers using it will probably be more focused on their babies anyway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Right now the app can only handle one baby at a time, so mothers taking care of multiple children will have to rely on workarounds like using alternate mobile devices for different babies or reserving their left or right breast for a particular child. Regardless of how many children they have, they’ll only need one Momsense, which can work with any Android or iOS device. Momsense is available at the company’s website for $ 89, or via stores like Target, Babies”R”Us and Bed, Bath and Beyond, which happen to have baby registries — great for expectant mothers who’d like to give this “quantified parenting” thing a try.


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Apple starts selling refurb iPhones through its online store

If you’ve ever wanted to buy an iPhone straight from Apple but thought that brand new unlocked models were out of your reach, you’re in luck. Apple has started selling refurbished iPhones in its US online store, with hefty discounts depending on what you want to buy. An unlocked 16GB iPhone 6s is selling for $ 449, or $ 80 off the usual price; splurge on a 64GB iPhone 6s Plus and you’ll shell out $ 589, or $ 110 less than usual. The iPhone SE and iPhone 7 are absent, but that’s not surprising given that owners have only had them for several months at best.

This won’t be as big a bargain as you’d get by purchasing an iPhone through a used goods site, an auction or a friend. However, you’ll get both a year-long warranty and the knowledge that there won’t be any rude surprises when you open the box. In short: if the thought of shopping on eBay or Swappa makes you nervous, this is your best bet.

Via: MacRumors

Source: Apple

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Prisma can turn Facebook Live broadcasts into artistic affairs

Prisma’s latest update gives you the power to air artistic videos on Facebook Live. When you switch from Photos to Videos, you’ll now see a “Live Stream” button that broadcasts whatever it is you’re capturing on cam. You’ll be able to apply any of the eight available art filters onto your broadcasts, which means you can transform any ordinary event into a moving painting on the fly. Unfortunately, this feature has a pretty limited reach: you’ll only get Facebook Live integration if you have an iPhone 7 or a 6s. Prisma says it’s because videos are processed locally on the device — the update also improves overall video quality — and requires the phones’ power.

In its announcement, the company said it knows both Facebook and Google are working on their own Prisma-like offerings. The social network launched artistic filters along with Snapchat-like features for Live a few days ago, while Google revealed that it’s working on its own style-transfer technology at the same time. Prisma CEO Aleksey Moiseenkov says it’s “really cool that Google and Facebook are trying to copy” the company’s app, but he thinks “that’s the evidence that style transfer and all this on-device deep learning stuff matters a lot for every big company in the world.”

Besides announcing the new feature, the company also assures Android fans that it still plans to bring offline processing to the platform, even though it’s taking some time to do so. Prisma promises to launch GIF support, to add social sharing options and to improve photo quality and offline processing time, as well.

Source: Prisma

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The 12 best tech gifts for fashionistas

Buying clothes and other apparel as gifts is always something of a risky proposition — and that’s doubly true if the person you’re shopping for prides herself on having good taste. Indeed, you might want to skip clothing altogether and focus on services your intended can use to do what they do best: be fabulous.

You might consider a gift card to Stitch Fix, where your friend will get a box of five items personalized to their tastes, with an option to return whatever they don’t like. Alternatively, there’s the Glam app for on-demand blowouts, manicures and makeup appointments, while Decorist offers online interior design consultations. If you’d still prefer to buy a physical gift, might we suggest headphones that look like a necklace, this sturdy-yet-stylish iPhone case or a fitness tracker that could pass for jewelry.

For our full list of recommendations in all categories, don’t forget to stop by our main Holiday Gift Guide hub.

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Samsung Pay starts rolling out in Canada

Canadian iPhone owners have had Apple Pay for a while, but what if a Samsung phone is your weapon of choice? You might be set after today. Just a couple of weeks after the company revealed that Samsung Pay was coming to Canada in November, Galaxy phone owners are reporting that the tap-to-pay service is going live. You currently have to sideload the Samsung Pay app and framework on a compatible phone (typically a Galaxy S6, S7 or Note 5), but you may not have to take your wallet out after that. A formal launch should come soon.

The big catch: Samsung Pay only works with “select” Visa credit cards from one bank, CIBC. You’re out of luck if if you pay with debit or prefer to stash your money elsewhere. More banks and cards are coming, but the service won’t initially be as ubiquitous as Apple Pay (which supports debit and most Canadian banks). At least you won’t have to worry as much about where you shop. Samsung Pay has the advantage of working with virtually any payment terminal, so you won’t have to reach for old-school plastic as often as you might otherwise.

Via: Android Central, MobileSyrup

Source: Reddit

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Apple temporarily cuts USB-C dongle prices to appease MacBook Pro buyers

Last week Apple announced its new lineup of MacBook Pros and revealed they include only new USB-C-style connectors, dropping all legacy ports (other than, oddly enough, the headphone jack.) While the aggressive move means owners can charge their laptop through any of the jacks, and have the new capabilities offered, it also means that simple things like plugging in an iPhone to charge will require an adapter of some kind, which is not included.

As my former podcast partner Ben Drawbaugh noted, stocking up on dongles to go with your new laptop gets pricey fast, and Mac buyers have responded angrily online in our comment sections and elsewhere, However, now Apple says it will help them make the switch by “reducing prices on all USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 peripherals we sell, as well as the prices on Apple’s USB-C adapters and cables.”

The new prices in the Apple Store:

  • USB-C to USB Adapter drops from $ 19 to $ 9
  • Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter drops from $ 49 to $ 29
  • USB-C to Lightning Cable (1m) drops from $ 25 to $ 19
  • USB-C to Lightning Cable (2m) from $ 35 to $ 29
  • USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter from $ 69 to $ 49
  • USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter from $ 69 to $ 49
  • SanDisk Extreme Pro SD UHS-II Card USB-C Reader drops from $ 49 to $ 29
  • All other third party USB-C peripherals ~25% off

Will not include Apple USB-C power adaptors or the USB-C Charge Cable (2m)

The only hitch remaining? These price drops are temporary. In a statement provided to Engadget on this lovely Friday afternoon, an Apple spokesperson said they would remain in effect through the end of the year, so even if you’re not buying a new laptop immediately, you may want to stock up on new cabling now. The Apple store page confirms this, saying “* Discount reflected in price. Subject to availability and quantity limits apply. Pricing effective October 27 – December 31, 2016.”

There’s also no word on credits for those who have purchased these products already, however as iMore points out, if you bought them since the announcement they should still be within the return period so you can contact Apple about that.

Update: MacRumors points out that prices on the LG 4K and 5K displays announced last week have dropped by about 25 percent. Apparently, they count as third-party USB-C peripherals? The UltraFine 5K Display is down to $ 974 from $ 1,300, while the Ultrafine 4K Display is down to $ 524, from $ 700.

Source: Apple Store

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