whats known and unknown

New Apple patent points to improved FaceTime calls over bad connections


Have you ever had a call over FaceTime when your network connection takes a hit and the person you’re talking with suddenly turns into a glitchy, pixelated mess? Apple(s aapl) is looking into a way to fix that, according to a patent published on Thursday and spotted by AppleInsider.

The patent – Video transmission using content-based frame search – describes how Apple can use pre-recorded or doctored images to account for dropped frames during a low-bandwith FaceTime call. It can do this by using the information from previously recorded frames, breaking down information in those images – like facial features, orientation and scale – into data points that may later be called upon when your connection suffers.

In addition to this, the patent describes a way of transmitting content in the background of a call at a lower resolution that the person you’re talking to.

If Apple can implement…

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Pandora faces FCC setback in bid for South Dakota FM radio station


The Federal Communications Commission has temporarily shot down online music service Pandora’s(s p) bid to take over  a terrestrial radio station after finding the company’s application did not overcome foreign ownership hurdles.

As Billboard reports, the FCC has sent Pandora a letter saying it has stopped processing its application because the company failed to demonstrate that enough of its shareholders are American (agency rules limit foreign nationals’ ownership of radio and TV stations).

The FCC decision for now halts Pandora’s quest to take over KXMZ-FM in Box Elder, South Dakota. The small town radio station, which plays “today’s best hits,” has become an improbable flashpoint between Pandora and music licensing agency ASCAP, which is urging the FCC to reject the application.

Pandora, which reaches around 70 million listeners over the internet, is seeking to buy the station as part of a publicity campaign to call attention to unequal rules that…

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Don’t count NFC out of Apple’s mobile payment plans just yet


Apple(s aapl) filed a patent on Thursday that could yet bring NFC, or near field communications, to its iPhone. The patent describes a point-of-sale transaction that uses NFC to establish a secure link with a purchasing device. That device then uses a different wireless interface to complete the transaction.

NFC iPhone

9to5Mac spotted the patent filing and suggests that Apple is simply keeping its options open for wireless payments but will instead use iBeacon technology. I don’t think that’s a likely scenario. While iBeacon is meant for nearby location use-cases, the definition of “nearby” is more like a 100 feet radius. That’s useful for targeting ads more than it is for payment transactions.

Unlike other smartphone makers, Apple has yet to include an NFC chip in its mobile devices. Android(s goog) device makers have included it in some models both for mobile wallets — see my first NFC transaction in 2011…

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Goodbye for now, Jelly – it’s not you, it’s the marketers


So, I’m uninstalling Jelly barely a week after the much-hyped Q&A service hit the Play Store(s goog). The app has potential that I can’t quite pin down yet, but right now it’s too annoying.

It’s not just a matter of the stupid questions, the lack of filtering, the inability to respond to responses (sometimes people need clarification on the question), or the distortion caused by having a contact who follows many thousands of people. It’s not even because of Biz Stone’s teeth-grindingly inane rationale for the whole thing (“We just kind of increase that global empathy quotient just a bit in our lifetime, and wouldn’t that be great?” – actual quote).

No, the real deal-breaker is the marketing. The thing launched like three seconds ago and already I’m getting notifications for “questions” from mobile phone companies, soft drink firms and so on. As Mashable put it, Jelly…

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Sprint brings back early upgrades with Easy Pay


After dropping its One Up program last week, Sprint(s s) on Thursday introduced a new way for customers to upgrade early with Sprint Easy Pay. Easy Pay lets you buy a new phone at any time and pay it off across 24 monthly installments plus an initial down payment.

With Easy Pay, once you buy a new phone, you can then upgrade to another new device at any point you’d like, though you’ll have to pay off the remaining balance on your current device first. You can then keep that paid off device or sell it back to Sprint through its Buyback program, which will give you up to $300.

Easy Pay makes a lot of sense to me. After all, Sprint isn’t losing any money through the program, as customers are ultimately paying the full price for their new handset, albeit over a period of time. And it…

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Pro sports team accepts Bitcoin: A first for the virtual currency


Bitcoin, a form of digital money popular with speculators and tech enthusiasts, continues to spread to more mainstream circles. On Thursday, the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association announced that fans can now use bitcoins to buy tickets online and pay for merchandise in the team’s store.

The announcement comes a week after giant retailer Overstock began accepting bitcoins for online payments and as the world’s first Bitcoin ATM in Vancouver, Canada, continues to do brisk business.

In a news release, Kings’ majority owner Vivek Ranadivé characterized the decision to accept bitcoins as part a “NBA 3.0” business philosophy that seeks to embrace technology.

The actual payment processing for the Kings will be handled by Bitpay, a service that provides merchants with the backend infrastructure to accept the currency in exchange for a 1 percent fee. Bitpay last year reported that it is working with more than 10,000 merchants

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Twitch 2013: viewers watched 12 Billion minutes of game video per month


It’s no secret that live broadcasting games is rapidly becoming a trendy way to interact with your gaming vehicle of choice, but this year was a big one for Twitch, according to a year-in-review flipbook released today.

According to statistics compiled by the company, Twitch saw more than 45 million unique visitors per month in 2013, compared to just 3.3 million when it launched in 2011. The platform has more than 900,000 broadcasters of gaming content, along with 5,100 partners (these include eSports companies as well as developers). Users watched 12 billion minutes on Twitch per month — averaging out to roughly 106 minutes per user per month. Perhaps most interesting: more than half of Twitch’s user base (both creators and viewers) spend more than 20 hours per week on the platform.

In the past, the bulk of streaming growth came from the rise of eSports — online games…

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What’s the “killer app” for wearables? Think context.


So here’s a good question: What exactly is going to drive the wearables market to the heights that some analysts are predicting? Juniper, for example, predicts 130 million smart wearable device shipments by 2018 while Gartner expects $5 billion in sales for wearables by 2016. But former Apple(s aapl) and Palm exec Michael Mace still isn’t sure there’s a reason to support such lofty figures because there’s no “killer app” for these devices. I disagree, or at the very least, I think the start of such an app is already available.

On Wednesday, Mace penned a great post on the topic, with one of the core thoughts being this:

“[T]he reality is that today’s forecasts of a wearable explosion are based on faith, not analysis. If you believe a wearable killer app is coming, then it’s easy to convince yourself that many millions of these things will be sold…

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Spotify brings unlimited free music streaming to desktop app and web


After bringing free shuffled music streaming to its phone and tablet apps last month, Spotify on Wednesday announced unlimited free music streaming for its desktop app and on the web. Previously limited to users during a 6-month grace period, Spotify has now removed streaming time limits for users in all countries.

It’s still an ad-supported platform, so you’ll have to endure your fair share of advertising. But it appears that Spotify is succeeding in in creating a profitable balance between paying customers and ad-supported free listeners. That’s a good sign, when some other music subscription services like Rdio are faltering.

The timing on this is interesting as well. Beats Music is scheduled to launch its subscription service next week, with a huge marketing campaign that will include AT&T(s t), Ellen DeGeneres and even a Super Bowl ad. Spotify might be be trying to buy good will and offer…

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Big data and disruption in health care


According to an article recently published in Forbes, the opportunity for disruption in the health care market is a trillion (with a T!) dollars. Or as recently cited on SiliconAngle,

“As of today, 80 percent of medical data is unstructured but clinically relevant. If this data can be better leveraged, it could create more than $300 billion in value each year.”

The opportunity — for disruption but also for creation of value — is tremendous. That is why I am so personally excited to be working with Gigaom Research on a new project, “The promise and challenge of data management in modern health care,” a free analyst roundtable webinar on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, at 10:00 am PT. I’ll be joining Gigaom’s Jo Maitland, John Webster from Evaluator Group and our customer Dan Woicke of Cerner to discuss topics including:

  • A high-level overview of how health care is…

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An undergrad, a drone and a dream: New FAA rules have a UNLV student smelling opportunity


Some people are just born to build stuff.

In his sixth-grade yearbook, Greg Friesmuth answered the question of what he wanted to be when he grew up by saying he wanted to build robots for the military. For Christmas that year, he got a couple Lego Mindstorms robot kits, which he combined into one and used to make his own creations.

Lately, though, Friesmuth has transferred that energy to drones. A couple years ago, he built one in his garage with a couple hundred dollars in mail-order parts. Last year, he built another, bigger one as part of a capstone project at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Today, that project has evolved into a working prototype of a industrial-grade quadcopter — and Friesmuth is trying make drones his career. Working out of a lab in the engineering building at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he has created a company…

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What happened in mobile in the fourth-quarter 2013

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Privacy activists can sue Google in UK over Safari tracking, court decides


A group of privacy activists in England have won permission to sue Google in that country over its tricking of Apple’s(s aapl) Safari browser into accepting its tracking cookies, even when the browser settings forbade this.

The judge dealing with the case argued that it should be heard in an English court, because it dealt with a “developing area” of English law, and because it was unreasonable to expect a small group of individuals to spend a fortune suing Google in the U.S. when the alleged damage was done in England.

String of cases

Last October Google(s goog) saw a similar class action lawsuit against it thrown out of a U.S. court — the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had already fined the firm $22.5 million for the tracking trick, and in this case the judge argued that no-one could prove they had been harmed.

Then activists in the UK

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Whoa: I see Google Now cards in Chrome on my desktop


It’s been a long time coming but Google(s goog) Now is finally making its way to Chrome on the desktop. This morning, I set a reminder in Google Now on my iPhone(s aapl) and a few minutes later Chrome prodded me with a notification. Don’t get super excited though: To make this happen, I had to install the Canary version of Chrome, which is a very experimental channel of Chrome.

google now desktop

I hit up Canary to test Google Now out because I saw a Google+ post from Mike McLoughlin early on Thursday morning pointing out the new feature. A quick trip to the Google Chrome Canary site and one install later, I had Google Now on my desktop.

There was one small step to enable the function. In my Chrome Canary address bar, I had to type chrome://flags/#enable-google-now because the feature is off by default. I tested it on a…

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite: A refresh of the original Galaxy Tab?


Samsung announced the new Galaxy Tab 3 Lite tablet on Thursday, one day after a manual for the device leaked online. The company didn’t mention a price for the slate, saying only that it will be available globally in choice of white or black colors. Just like the Galaxy Tab 3, this Lite version uses a 7-inch display.

Galaxy Tab 3 Lite

The screen itself is one place where the “Lite” part comes in: Samsung is using a 1024 x 600 panel which is the same resolution as the original Galaxy Tab from three generations ago. Samsung doesn’t specify the processor in the new tablet, saying only that it’s a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU. The user manual, however, notes this is a Marvell PXA986 chip.

Don’t expect LTE connectivity in the Galaxy Tab 3 Lite either. Instead, look for a Wi-Fi-only model and one that includes 2G/3G for mobile broadband. Samsung says the 3G radio…

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Facebook’s Zuckerberg to headline Mobile World Congress this year


Facebook(s fb) takes mobile very seriously — that’s where its growth lies — so it’s no surprise that Mark Zuckerberg has just been announced as headline keynote speaker on day one of next month’s Mobile World Congress. According to the GSMA, which runs the Barcelona shindig, Zuck will opine on “the importance of extending the benefits of ubiquitous internet access to the unconnected world.” Expect updates on the internet.org initiative and perhaps news on Facebook’s own efforts to extend its advertising humanitarian reach to the world’s needy.

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Here’s how to link digital photos to the photographer’s online identity


Connecting the dots is becoming ever easier when it comes to our digital personae, but here’s a fascinating new way for that to happen: according to EU-funded research, it’s possible to link digital photos to the social media identities of the people who took them. This technique is definitely worth keeping in mind for its privacy implications.

We’ve known since 2006 that digital cameras – from big SLRs down to smartphone snappers — plant unique fingerprints on the images they generate, because of sensor pattern noise (SPN). Unlike the Exif metadata that comes with most digital photos, SPN can’t be stripped, so it’s of great interest to people working in digital forensics.

What’s new, however, is the fact that SPN can provide a link between a photo of interest and the social media account of the person who took it. That’s the lesson we can take from an award-winning paper

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Intel goes a little cloud crazy and why Pivotal matters to the manufacturers of the world


This week on the Structure Show we examine why Intel is pushing hard to slap its brand on all the major clouds — perhaps proving that the cloud now really is the server complete with an Intel Inside sticker. But we’re also blown away by Google’s  bold $3.2 billion internet-of-things acquisition of NEST, the intelligent home thermostat.

And our guest, Hugh E. Williams, Pivotal’s brand new senior vice president of R&D, talks about what problems the EMC-VMware spinoff is attacking–with a little help from its buddies GE and IBM. And why Pivotal’s work really matters to the manufacturing, distribution and transport companies that make and deliver our physical goods.

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Hosts: Barb Darrow and Derrick Harris

Today’s episode is brought to you by Freshbooks and Audible.


Handicapping the clouds: Amazon will continue to crush…

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You can now 3D print directly from Adobe’s Photoshop


First Microsoft, now Adobe: 3D printing will get a big mainstream boost Thursday when users find they can now use Photoshop to edit 3D designs and output them directly to a 3D printer.

Right now, designing a 3D printable object can be a cumbersome process that involves switching between several design and print prep software applications. While users will be able to use Photoshop to create designs from scratch if they wish, Photoshop product manager Andy Lauta said in a press conference earlier this week that Adobe expects people will mainly use it as a finishing tool that will cut down on the number of applications needed to get an object designed and ready to print.

That includes making use of all of Photoshop’s best features: adjusting color, adding texture and even mashing up different designs to create something new. Considering that almost every 3D design program is only compatible with…

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Ericsson’s Vestberg is reportedly in the mix for top Microsoft job


Another day, another candidate for Microsoft(s msft) CEO. This time it’s Ericsson(s adr) CEO Hans Vestberg who’s being considered by thesoftware giant as a successor to outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer, according to Bloomberg. 

Vestberg clearly has a  background in mobile, which is a key consideration for Microsoft, which is trying to drive Windows Phone and Surface tablet adoption.

Over the past month other candidates — all named by anonymous sources — have included Ford(s f) CEO Alan Mulally, who recently pulled his name from consideration. Qualcomm(s qcom) President Steven Mollenkopf’s name was also bandied about, and days later he was promoted to CEO of that company. And there are a several internal candidates including Satya Nadella, Stephen Elop, who heads up all devices, and Tony Bates who leads business development.

One of the big questions around a successor is whether he or possibly she will have to deal with…

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