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Tweets From the NYT Blackout

Stop the presses! The New York Times website went down! Who knew everyone cared so much? See the funniest tweets about the outage from news junkies, pundits, Times reporters, and more.

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A Good Day For Hackers

You might want to change your Twitter password. On Tuesday, the Syrian Electronic Army hacked Twitter accounts belonging to SocialFlow and the New York Post, writes Brian Ries.

It seems no one’s safe from the Syrian Electronic Army. The online activists claimed credit on Tuesday for hacking the Facebook page of the New York Post and the Twitter feeds of some of the paper’s reporters. It also hacked into the Facebook page, Twitter account, and blog of SocialFlow, a social media optimization service used by scores of media outlets, including The Daily Beast, to manage their Twitter and Facebook pages.

The first hint that something was wrong came when SocialFlow’s own Twitter feed starting sounding funky. Its usual trickle of dry marketing-speak ("Are influencers actually that important to your social media strategy?"), suddenly changed tone at 3 p.m.


"Syrian Electronic Army Was Here," read the tweet, which also mentioned a Twitter account belonging to the hackers, along with the hashtags #SEA and #SyrianElectronicArmy. A second tweet appeared shortly thereafter: "Fuck you @twitter," it read, with a ":P" emoticon (that’s a guy sticking his tongue out, for all you non-emoticon users out there), and a picture of Twitter's "fail whale."


Musk Unveils Hyperloop

If you thought Tesla was cool and futuristic, wait 'til you see its founder Elon Musk's proposal for high-speed tube travel. Meet the Hyperloop.

It’s a question technology and transportation enthusiasts have been mulling over for months. What will Elon Musk—the genius behind Space X, Tesla, and Solar City—come up with next? Rumors have been swirling that he would propose a fifth mode of transportation for the U.S and on Monday, the wait ended with a futuristic proposal straight out of the Jetsons.

Hyperloop Travel

This image released by Tesla Motors shows a conceptual design sketch of the Hyperloop passenger transport capsule (Tesla Motors, via AP)

Musk’s high speed transport system is called the Hyperloop, and the inventor likens the design to the barrels of a shot gun. Think two metal tubes placed side by side enclosed with pods inside of them. Pods run one direction down one tube and the opposite direction down the other. High speed air thrusts the pods from one location to the final destination, continuously giving them little bursts along the way. Through a low-pressure system and highly developed materials that resist drag and wear and tear, Musk expects the pods to travel up to 800 miles per hour, just below the speed of sound. In one version of the design, Musk shows the Hyperloop carrying people to and fro in pods that look similar to the seats in an airplane. The inventor says cars could also easily be transferred via a larger system.

The design isn’t cheap. But weighing in at a lofty $6 to $10 billion price tag, it’s far less expensive than current high-speed alternatives, like train systems. Musk’s design takes specific aim at an upgraded high-speed rail system planned to be built in California that would link major cities Los Angeles and San Francisco. That system is planned to cost $70 billion, at least seven times the predicted cost of a Hyperloop. The Hyperloop is also touted for being green, and thus even more likely to be embraced by environmentalists. It’s designed to be run purely on solar power.

App Testing

I Threw My Phone in the Air

Winston Ross has been throwing things up high in the air his whole life, so he was thrilled to try the new Android app that encourages users to toss their phones high. But the reality was deflating.

Dear creators of the new app Send Me to Heaven:

When I first heard about this new app for smartphones, I was really excited. Not because I think an app would really get me into heaven—duh!—but because I also heard what the app really does. It’s really about as exciting as getting into heaven. So, yeah, I knew that this thing you guys at CarrotPop designed was basically a game where you throw your phone into the air, and, through some kind of space magic, the app knows how high you threw it. And then I heard that you could share your score not just with your friends but also all over the world. You have no idea how excited I was to find out about all the features of your app.

Winston Ross tests Send Me to Heaven.

Let me explain. I have been throwing stuff as high up in the air for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, it was mostly rocks, and also these green hard plums that grew on plum trees in my neighborhood in Berkeley, California. It was so amazing to watch those rocks and plums soar off into space and disappear for a moment, just a moment, and then come rocketing back to earth.

Beast Beast

It Really Is Raining Cats and Dogs

Weather is boring. Kittens and puppies are awesome. Melissa Fares talks to the two guys behind Weather Puppy and Weather Kitty, apps giving meteorology a new, viral spin.

“A puppy or cat would never lie about the weather, would they?” says Suraj Hemnani, who co-created the year-old app Weather Puppy and its two-day-old housemate Weather Kitty. “We are trying to make the weather cute,” Shiv Takhar, the other creator, says.


Weather Kitty takes the mundane science of meteorology into the realm of art—and it’s pretty fun. We all need a little meteorology in our lives if we don’t want to wind up in the wrong coat or caught in an unexpected rainstorm. With Weather Kitty, Takhar and Hemnani offer cat lovers a plethora of felines (you can even set your own cat as the background!) that reflect the forecast. Does it get any better than that?

While the new app itself is free, a fairly priced upgrade ($1.99 is cheaper than a cup of coffee, after all) brings you the undeniably amusing “Grumpy Cat”—who is perhaps the most famous cat in the world—theme. This cat will undoubtedly make you laugh at work, so be careful where you launch the app. And it will only get better: the animal gurus are in contact with famous Internet cats. “There will be more,” they say.


Twitter Cracks Down on Abuse

Twitter Cracks Down on Abuse Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty

By making it easier to report.

After a rash of scary, misogynistic tweets directed at high-profile female users, Twitter cracked down on Saturday by issuing new rules intended to curb abuse. Like Facebook, Twitter will now feature a button allowing users to report abuse, rather than forcing them to find a particular form on its help page. The site's rules statement was also updated to clarify that it will not tolerate "targeted abuse," which includes threats, accounts dedicated to harassment and ganging up on a single user. More staff will also be dedicated to monitoring such situations. Cheers to another strike against using web anonymity for evil.

Read it at Associated Press

Short Circuit

Humanoid Robot Sent to Space

Humanoid Robot Sent to Space JAXA via AP video

First "astronaut" robot to be launched.

As the first robot “astronaut” is sent into space, we get that much closer to a real-life WALL-E. And, of course, it's from Japan. Kirobo, the first talking humanoid robot to be sent to the final frontier, was launched Sunday along with other supplies and devices bound for the International Space Station by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. The 13-inch-tall machine told reporters prior to launch, "One small step for me, a giant leap for robots." Kirobo, which is expected to arrive in November, is intended to be a companion for Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and will communicate with another robot on Earth. Now this is a buddy comedy we'd all like to see.

Read it at Associated Press

Common Cents

Apple’s Dumb Penny-Pinching

Threatened by competitors and consumer indifference, Apple has been cutting costs. But, Dan Gross argues, the tech giant would do better to increase employee pay.

Only in America can a company with $145 billion in cash sitting on its books cry poverty. On Friday, a Wall Street Journal article on Apple’s retail operations highlighted the chain’s challenges finding a new leader and as rampant growth declines. A nugget buried within the story, highlighted by Business Insider, noted that the chain is trying to improve results in part by cutting the budget for spending on store supplies like paper and pens.

Apple Store in Grand Central New York

Customers at the Apple store at Grand Central Station in New York, New York. (Andrew Gombert/EPA, via Landov)

Now, you could argue that Apple stores don’t need paper and pens. But this is the equivalent of sending out a memo urging employees to reuse paper clips. It’s a decent idea, a good impulse, but it doesn’t address the core problem.

Apple’s core (sorry) problem is the same one that the U.S. economy at large faces. The corporate sector is doing well, the rich are doing great. But broad domestic demand just isn’t materializing to the degree they would hope. In fact, Apple’s retail operations have been a smashing success. Last year, the Journal notes, Apple stores were bringing in $5,971 per square foot, a 17 percent increase from 2011. That’s way more than Tiffany’s. But this year, “sales per square have fallen to $4,542, down 4.5% from $4,754 the same time a year before.” Total sales for the most recent quarter also slumped—“the first drop in year-on-year quarter sales at the stores since 2009, when the company changed how it recognized revenue.”


Welcome to the ‘Zero House’

In Utah, a builder and a home-technology firm have teamed up to build a European-style passive house that uses very little energy.

To most Americans, living in an ecofriendly smart house seems like a far-fetched, expensive idea. Building homes that use less energy tends to add significant costs. Ironically, many of the homes that offer the advantages of low operating costs are affordable only for the 1 percent.


That’s changing, slowly. And this week, two Utah-based companies, Garbett Homes and Vivint, introduced what they say is an affordable, scalable, completely sustainable living space. With the Zero House, which starts at about $350,000, they are introducing an energy-independent smart house that, while far from cheap, may be affordable.

The Zero House is modeled after the “passive house” or “net zero” style of home construction, which is nothing new on the architectural scene. Using tight insulation, renewable energy sources, and strategic design, these houses can keep carbon impact to a minimum while virtually eliminating utility bills. Even in climates with cold winters and warm summers, they require little in the way of heating and cooling. The first passive structures were created in Germany in 1990, and have since taken off in Europe. The Passivhaus Institut estimates there are now over 25,000 net-zero homes and buildings on the continent, where ample government subsidies have offset the impact of increased building costs. In the United States, however, the higher costs associated with turning homes into airtight, power-generating envelopes have turned people off. Only 13 American passive homes have been built since 2003.


Hailo Summons Taxis

It’s absurd that taxis and potential fares find one another through serendipity, trial and error, and instinct. Cab-calling app Hailo aims to bring the taxi industry into the 21st century.

The idea was simple: how can the taxi system be made more efficient? After all, at any given moment there are hundreds of taxis driving around New York looking for fares and hundreds of people seeking to hail cabs. And in the 21st century the industry relies on a rather ancient way of matching supply and demand: drivers cruise busy areas, and potential passengers stick out their hands and yell.


A woman tries to hail a taxi in New York City. Apps like Hailo are trying to replace standing on a corner with placing an order on a smartphone. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty)

Hailo, a London-based startup with two main hubs in London and N.Y.C., was designed with the help of taxi drivers and is looking to make this complicated system run better. Launched in November 2011, Hailo is a mobile app that connects people needing a ride with available taxi drivers. It is live in cities such as London, Toronto, Chicago, Barcelona, and, as of this year, New York.

Riders have long been frustrated at their inability to find a taxi where and when they need it. But the inspiration for Hailo didn’t come from a tech-savvy city dweller. It came from three taxi drivers in London who had a public, as well as personal, interest in improving the taxi experience.

Smart TV

Google’s Hot TV Dongle

The pitch for Google’s Chromecast is simple. It’s “the easiest way to watch online video on your TV.” Brian Ries plugs in the $35 smart-TV device.

I’m a cord-cutter, which means I don't have cable (by choice). 

A few years back, after realizing we were paying way too much for reruns of shows readily available for a small fee on the Web, my fiancé and I called up Time Warner and canceled our cable, cold turkey. Left to scavenge for televised entertainment content using a patchwork of web apps and set-top services, we eventually settled on a home-theater package that includes a full-screen projector, surround sound, and a Roku, which works great with our go-to apps: HBO GO, Netflix, and Amazon Instant.* 


The new Google Chromecast device is displayed in San Francisco on July 24. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

We love it, but there's always been one glaring omission that never really made much sense. For the life of us, we couldn't figure out how to stream YouTube videos to the TV screen. There was no official Roku app, and an unofficial app that popped up to make YouTube streaming possible was quickly removed—booted at YouTube's request


Give Bing a Chance

It may not seem as cool as Google, so you’ve ignored it for years. But Microsoft’s search engine really, really wants you to give it a try. Anna Brand comes to its defense.

Bing is the kid who gave you his Doritos during snack time. Or the girl who invited you to her birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s even though you didn’t invite her to yours. Bing just wants to be your friend. And yet, after four lonely years, Bing is still the new kid in school sitting alone at lunch, and you can’t even lift your head to wave hello. You’re mean.


Bing corporate vice president Gurdeep Singh Pall speaks at a Microsoft event in San Francisco, June 26, 2013. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Won’t you give Bing a chance?

To be sure, Microsoft’s web search engine is still young (it was unveiled in May 2009), and it has made huge strides toward its goal of putting a dent in Google’s massive market share. According to the June comScore rankings, Bing is second behind Google in core search share, with 17.9 percent—an increase of 2.3 percent from June 2012. The original “Bing It On” challenge, which launched in 2012 and asked 1,000 random people on the street to blindly compare Bing vs. Google search results, revealed that a surprising 57 percent of participants preferred Bing over Google. In a few areas, Bing is inarguably better—flight searches, for example—than its “do no evil” rival.

Das EV

BMW’s Electric Car

Electric vehicles remain very much a niche market. But as BMW, one of the world’s largest automakers, formally enters the fray, that may begin to change.

The concept of electric vehicles is hardly new. But electric-vehicle technology is only now beginning to hit the mass market. Only a few companies have made serious efforts at producing EVs on a large scale; Tesla Motors is one of them. The company’s Model S is now a benchmark by which other EV’s are measured—a high-end, premium product that sells out quickly. Nissan’s Leaf, Ford’s C-Max, and Chevy’s Volt are all selling modestly at lower price points.


The BMW i3 plug-in hybrid makes its North American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

But Tesla is now getting some serious competition. BMW is poised to introduce its new i3 all-electric coupe in 2014. The new car, which will be offered at almost half the price of the Model S, is seen as the first serious foray into the luxury EV market by a large automaker.

With a range of up to 100 miles—without the optional gas-powered extender—and an engine that can produce 170hp and 184 lb/ft of torque, the electric coupe has generated some serious buzz. Cheaper by $30,000 than the Tesla Model S, the i3 will be a more accessible alternative for those in the market for a high-end EV. BMW says its production capacity is 40,000 units for the i3. (Tesla sells about 20,000 vehicles per year.) With over 300 independent dealers nationwide, deep pockets for R&D, and a well-established brand, BMW could become a serious EV player if it wants to be.


Too Old to Tweet?

Geraldo was drunk, and Weiner clearly has issues to deal with. But at least part of the men’s online ineptness should be attributed to their age.

Everyone has seen Geraldo Rivera’s sexy selfie at this point, almost certainly regretting it immediately after. No one more than the 70-year-old talk-show host himself, who just wants the whole thing to be over. “If my pix is so offensive to media critics, why do they keeping flashing the damn thing over & over?” Rivera whined Monday on Twitter.


A senior citizen stares at a computer screen during a class to teach seniors how to use Facebook at a branch of the New York Public Library, August 13, 2012. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters/Corbis)

And the Internet can barely hold all the crotch shots and lewd messages Anthony Weiner has pasted onto various social sites, discretions for which the New York City mayoral hopeful has repeatedly been outed and forced to offer uncomfortable apologies—the latest with sad wife in tow.

So why do they keep doing it?

Cold Cash

An Intuitive Thermostat?

The Nest thermostat promises to save energy by programming itself and adjusting to users. Dan Gross adds a couple to his own home to find out if the product lives up to the hype.

Can a $250, Apple-like programmable thermostat save the planet?


From two Apple expats comes the Nest Learning Thermostat, a cleverly intuitive household thermostat that picks up on your daily schedule as well as your heating and cooling habits and programs itself accordingly. (Nest Labs/MCT, via Newscom)

Residential heating and cooling consumes about 10 percent of U.S. energy production. Heating and cooling accounts for about half of the total energy bill of a typical American household.  So if a device can help make a significant dent in usage, it can save a lot of watts, a lot of money, and a lot of emissions.

But the traditional ways of reducing home heating and cooling costs—turning the thermostat down in the winter, turning it up in the summer—are pretty blunt instruments. The demand for energy in a home can vary greatly over the course of a day and a month. It would be much easier if somebody—or something—was watching your habits, figuring out when you didn’t it mind it being a little colder or when you were gone or when you were not occupying parts of the house, and then adjusted the temperature accordingly.

13 Hacks to Improve Your Google Search

13 Hacks to Improve Your Google Search

Even the king of all search engines can be throttled up with a few simple tricks.

The App Center

The Snapchat Explosion

The Snapchat Explosion

The photo app is social-media’s puberty: naughty or dorky fun without a permanent record. By Winston Ross.


Hailo Summons Taxis

Yelp for Men?

Rate This Guy

Tech Saver

Put That Phone Down


The Sex-Tracking App

What the Future Holds

Does Your Drone Deliver?

Does Your Drone Deliver?

Around the world, unmanned aircraft are the hottest thing in food delivery. But don’t try it at home just yet.


Musk Unveils Hyperloop


Google Glass Frenzy Builds