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Facebook Is Invading Your Phone

Facebook doesn’t want to build your next phone—it wants to run it. Meet Facebook “Home.”

It’s a phone! It’s an app! It’s...just an app.

The long-awaited Facebook phone has finally arrived, making its debut Thursday afternoon to a crowd of tech journalists sitting at the social network’s headquarters at 1 Hacker Way in Menlo Park, California.

Facebook-Mobile

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on April 4. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

“Today we’re finally gonna talk about that Facebook phone,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said as he strode on the stage to muted laughter, clutching an oversized microphone, citing the moniker that for years has followed Facebook’s gradual prioritization of mobile.

Cash Equivalent?

My Bitcoin (Mis)adventure

They’re creepy, confusing, and skyrocketing in value. Who wouldn’t want to buy some bitcoins? Winston Ross checks out the online currency everyone’s buzzing about.

I first heard about the online currency known as Bitcoin on Monday, when a friend from Facebook who has the distinction of being the only person in my life ever to have punched me in the nose posted this, as his status update:

130403-Ross-Bitcoin-box-tease

Crocodile Images/Getty

“Who out there (1) uses Bitcoin and (2) reads my status updates?”

I scored a 50 percent on that little quiz, which I have since learned is proof that I live under a boulder. I’m no Buzz Bissinger, but the idea that some newfangled way to spend money had come into being without me knowing about it was a huge shock, from which it took two full days to recover. On Wednesday morning, having finally yanked myself from bed/depression, I decided I would make bitcoin my bitch.

Hired!

Facebook: The Hiring Network?

Many users regard Facebook as a place to waste time and socialize with people to whom they have tenuous connections. But a new study suggests that spending time on the social network interacting with your closest friends may increase your chances of landing a new job.

Looking for a job? Log into Facebook chat right now. The place where many of us go to kill time and avoid doing work could actually be key to finding work in the future.

A new study released Thursday morning by Facebook found that your close friends are the most likely to help you get a job in this tough economy. Sounds obvious, right? But it actually negates the classic sociological theory that weaker acquaintances—those who interact with different groups, read different websites, and talk about different things—will connect you with your dream job. In other words, the people who get and see information your insulated inner circle doesn’t. It turns out that the “strength of weak ties” hypothesis, popularized by sociologist Mark Granovetter in the 1970s, may no longer apply to our digital age.

Facebook

A man uses an iPad with a Facebook app in this photo illustration. (Stoyan Nenov/Reuters, via Landov)

Moira Burke and Robert Kraut, the authors of the study, filtered through survey responses from 3,000 participants and internal Facebook data encompassing nearly a quarter of a million users. And they found that the Facebook users who spent more time chatting with the friends and family they consider themselves closest to were more likely to find out about jobs. Those who did so had a 33.2 percent probability of finding a new job, while those who spent more time talking to acquaintances had a 6.5 percent probability of finding a new job. What accounts for the difference? It’s not social-ladder climbing or blatant nepotism. Rather, it’s the lengths your best buddies are willing to go to get you hired.

No Gadgets Day

It’s Almost Time to Unplug!

From sunset March 1 to sunset March 2 has been declared National Day of Unplugging, when we are urged to untether ourselves from smartphones, laptops, and other gadgets. From going outside to making some alone time to reading a book, here are alternatives to engaging with technology.

In an attempt to get people to engage less with technology and more with people, Reboot, a nonprofit organization, has declared March 1 to March 2 National Day of Unplugging. For the fourth year running, you can take a pledge to avoid technology for 24 hours—from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.

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McMillan Digital Art/Getty

Worried you won’t know what to do without your smartphone, iPad, laptop, TV, etc.? Not to fear. We asked some leading people in technology what they do to disconnect.

Exercise

#LASTWORDS

Tweeting in the Afterlife?

New postmortem tweeting projects are aiming to push the boundaries of life, death, and social media.

When Reeva Steenkamp, girlfriend of Olympian Oscar Pistorius, was killed on Valentine’s Day, her Twitter feed—like many in the last few years who’ve met an untimely end-—was thoroughly analyzed by the day’s end. Her last tweet echoed with tragic irony: “What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay”

Twitter

David Brabyn/Corbis

Jamie Forrest and Michael McWaters took note. The web developer and user-experience architect duo had been working on a website called The Tweet Hereafter for almost a year, and decided it was time to unveil it. Their concept is as simple as the content is heavy: it’s a compilation of the last tweets of the famous and recently deceased. Familiar names like Internet activist Aaron Swartz and singers Jenni Rivera and Mindy McCready grace the list, which includes the date and cause of death.

The idea was sparked when conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart died last spring, practically in the midst of a Twitter feud with another blogger. On Twitter, McWaters joked that if he were to die at that moment he sure wouldn’t want his last post to be about Breitbart.

Alert!

Rape’s Hi-Tech Solution

The Indian government is developing a wristwatch equipped with GPS and a distress button. Can it help fight the plague of sexual violence?

In late January, the Indian government announced a new project to fight the rampant sexual assault cases in the country: a wristwatch. No longer just a fashion statement or functional timepiece, the accessory boasts a built-in distress button that texts friends, family, and the nearest police station with the wearer’s GPS coordinates, and a video camera that captures footage when the button is hit.

Protesting Gang Rape in New Delhi in December

Indian protesters hold candles while temporarily blocking a road during a rally in New Delhi on December 30, 2012, following the cremation of a gang-rape victim in the Indian capital. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty)

India’s information technology minister, Kapil Sibal, announced the new development project a month after the brutal rape and murder of a young medical student in Delhi launched nationwide protests calling for change in the dysfunctional methods of addressing sexual violence. The briefing notes describe the project’s goal as “to develop indigenous product leveraging existing mobile spread and availability to cater to the security needs of people.” (Neither Sibal nor the government agency tasked with developing the watch responded to requests for a comment.) The watch is one of many tech-based solutions being crafted to combat rape and sexual assault by governments and tech developers across the globe. But not all activists are convinced this approach will work, and some are questioning how effective technology can be in stopping horrendous sexual assault cases like the one that shook Delhi.

Social media and smartphone software are growing into their potential to bring attention to, and even prevent, sexual assault and rape. Facebook and Twitter have been used to track sexual attacks in war zones like Syria, and to encourage prosecution in cases like Steubenville, Ohio. Hi-tech straws can detect the presence of date rape drugs in drinks. But it is the mobile platform that shows the most potential for combating an endemic of sexual violence across the globe.

CYBERATTACK

Is NYT Hacking Just the Start?

Hackers in China breached the paper’s computers for months. But even the security consultant who found the culprit says the West just doesn’t get the unbridled enemy it’s facing.

Who or what is APT-12—and why should Western companies be worried?

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Hackers peer through binary data for private information by various means. (Patrick George/Getty)

On Wednesday night, The New York Times announced it had been the target of attacks from hackers in China for the past four months. The attacks followed an investigation by Times reporter David Barboza into the personal wealth of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Times officials said the Chinese government had warned that the piece on Wen’s relatives would “have consequences,” which triggered the newspaper’s executives to ask AT&T to watch their network for unusual activity.

The hackers were able to steal the corporate passwords of every Times employee, as well as break into the personal computers of 53 employees.

Cheap!

India’s $20 Tablet Computer

A Canada-based company believes it can revolutionize education in India by rolling out a $20 tablet computer.

What can you buy for $20? A lunch for two? A new shirt? A few groceries? For India’s 220 million schoolchildren, $20 may soon buy a tablet computer.

Aakash 2 by Datawind

The Aakash 2 tablet computer was unveiled at the United Nations in late November. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty)

Not a cheap toy, but a fully operational tablet computer running on Android or Linux, more powerful than the first generation iPad and with the capability to build its own computer programs. Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of the tech firm DataWind, told The Daily Beast that he’s confident his tablet, the Aakash 2, is set to revolutionize the developing world’s education system. The company’s testing ground is certainly not modest: India, the world’s most populated country, where 80 million students don’t complete elementary education; where only 17 percent of students enroll in college; where 20 percent of teens and young adults are illiterate; and 95 percent of the population doesn’t own a computing device.

Montreal-based DataWind has partnered with the Indian government to begin providing its low-cost tablets to the country’s estimated 220 million students. The real cost of the tablet is $40 but the Ministry of Education is subsidizing half the price. The partners hope the money local governments will save on printing textbooks (which are currently provided to students) will be redeployed toward the tablet, making them free for young generations who are being disenfranchised by an overloaded and undermanaged education system.

SCREW GRAPH SEARCH

When’s the Last Time You Were Poked?

Graph Search, timeline, ticker—whatever happened to the cheap thrill of the poke? Lizzie Crocker on the long slow death of the classic Facebook feature.

Thankfully, the launch of Facebook’s new Graph Search hasn’t been met with the same user outrage as timeline and other site-altering fixes that threw our online social lives into disarray. (“I need two profile pictures now?!”)

APTOPIX Facebook

CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduces graph search Tuesday at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Perhaps that’s just because many of us don’t quite understand what it is just yet.

Instead, the brainy new feature, for some, has brought back a certain kind of nostalgia for the good old days, when Facebook still had those utilitarian “walls” and we could simply stalk someone without being constantly distracted by that news-ticker thing.

ZOOM ZOOM

Who’s Driving That Car?

Gadget Show Lexus

A Lexus SL 600 Integrated Safety driverless research vehicle is on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jan. 9, 2013. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

Last week Audi and Toyota unveiled ground-breaking advances in the fast-approaching world of autonomous automobiles, an area where Google still dominates. Buckle up, America—soon your car will be driving you.

Somewhere in California, the tech gods are reinventing the wheel—one driverless car at a time. 
 
If you’re new to the concept, take a peek. There you are, sitting comfortably in the back seat of your Audi A7 as it maneuvers around steep turns, moving objects, and traffic lights: all with the ease and elegance of a seasoned chauffeur. Destination reached—a restaurant, let’s say—and out you go, punching directions into your smartphone akin to: “Hey, car, go park on Sixth Avenue.” An hour or two later (too much wine?) and you’re ready to call it a night. You call, car comes. A quick nap in the back seat, perhaps, and suddenly you’re home. 

Ready or not: the future of cars has arrived. At last week’s 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Audi and Toyota proudly debuted their newest autonomous-car models. Outfitted with high-definition cameras, radars, infrared projectors, and satellite-connected tools, the vehicles seem smarter than the humans who made them. It’s an exhilarating concept, the idea that one day our cars will be driving us. Or wait ... is it?

John Nielsen, the director of automotive engineering at the American Automobile Association, for one, is ecstatic. “It’s an incredibly exciting time,” he says, with audible zeal. “We’re all very interested in the technology; we’re watching it closely. It’s a tremendous development.” After driving—or rather, being driven in—one of Google’s prototypes, Nielsen is a bona fide fan.  
 
For good reason. In the world of driverless cars, the possibilities are endless. Among the list of fascinating new advances presented at this year’s CES was the Audi’s ability to park itself inside a multistory garage. Brad Stertz, a spokesperson for Audi, says the once clunky, driverless-vehicle concept is now almost “indistinguishable” from a regular car. He’s not lying. Where once sat a mess of computers in the passenger's seat now stands a tidy motherboard no larger than an iPad. “This technology will be ready by the end of the decade,” Stertz assures me, “or at least early into the next one.” 

Audi and Toyota’s accomplishments aside, it’s Google, in many ways, that’s leading the charge. After Sebastian Thurn—Google’s Street View cofounder—won the Pentagon’s 2005 DARPA challenge with his robot car “Stanley,” the company went ready, set, ride. Since then, Google has successfully covered more than 400,000 miles while in self-driving mode, across a wide variety of terrain and road conditions in California. Not to mention getting Gov. Jerry Brown to make driverless cars in California street-legal.

The social network’s challenge to Google, LinkedIn, and dating websites. What you need to know about the new and powerful search function. By Sam Schlinkert

On Tuesday Facebook announced a new and enhanced search feature called Graph Search, what Mark Zuckerberg called the third pillar of the Facebook ecosystem, after the News Feed and Timeline.

Facebook

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduces a new feature called "Graph Search" during a press conference at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on Jan. 15, 2013. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters, via Landov)

Graph Search, which Zuckerberg said is still in the "beta" stage, will allow all Facebook users to search every piece of content on Facebook, while also being "privacy aware." During the announcement, Zuckerberg strived to show the difference between Graph Search and a regular web search, claiming: "Graph Search is designed to show you the answer and not links to answers."

What kinds of things will you able to search for in Graph Search? Examples given in the announcement include "My friends who live in Palo Alto who like Game of Thrones," photos of me and another person, and "Friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter," a search that they suggest could be done before a movie night.

Self-Driving Car!

Ten Coolest New Gadgets

A self-driving car. A device that tells you when you’re eating too fast. Glasses that allow you to make phone calls. A look at the space-age innovations seen at the ongoing CES in Las Vegas—some of them available now!

The International Consumer Electronics Show is known for ushering in the technology that, in just a few months, we’ll be wondering how we lived without. This year’s techie gathering began Jan. 7 in the bright lights of Las Vegas, and is showcasing smart forks, luggage trackers, and self-driving cars. From the conference where the VCR and the camcorder were unveiled, here are the newest, coolest gadgets to expect in 2013.

2013 International CES

New technologies unveiled at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center for the 2013 International CES in Las Vegas, Jan. 7, 2013. (Getty (3))

Lexus’s Self-Driving Car

Who wants to steer a car when there are myriad other productive tasks you could be accomplishing on that 40-minute commute? Lexus’s Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle is designed to drive on its own, with no pesky human interference. Lexus general manager Mark Templin was quick to stress that while “machines can handle simple tasks … sensing what’s around you and understanding it is vastly different.” Unfortunately for consumers, right now the car is just a research project.

Availability and price unknown.

HAPIfork From HAPILABS

This gadget sends a buzz through your fork when it determines you’re shoveling food into your mouth faster than you should, which probably is as unsightly as it is unhealthful. The smart utensil tracks how many bites you take, how fast you’re taking them, and how long your meal is. The point? Eating slowly helps you keep trim because you’ll get full faster and will more fully digest your meal. “Your mind doesn’t have to do the work,” says inventor Jacques Lepine.

$99, available in April.

A “huge leap” in technology? Hardly. Apple’s latest is nice to look at, but it’s too fragile, too bulky, and too short on battery life.

This week, Apple introduced what it immodestly described as, “without a doubt, the very best computer we have ever built.” The self-congratulations didn’t end there. In announcing its new MacBook Pro with Retina display, the company said it had made “huge leaps” in technology and design, hailing the laptop as a new paradigm in personal computing that was only made possible by throwing out previous constructs and starting from scratch.

Really?

I know Apple never learned the meaning of the word hyperbole, but a radical new design? Viewed from one’s actual lap, Apple’s latest is virtually indistinguishable from previous designs; a closer sibling to the tank-like old Pro than the sports-car-like MacBook Air. Not that the fish aren’t biting: Reviews have been generally positive, and within a day of the computer’s Monday release, shipping backlogs on the Apple site went from five days to two weeks. By Thursday, the backlog had grown to four weeks.

I’m one of those fish, having compulsively hit refresh on the Apple Store site after the company’s announcement until I was able to order the computer, like most first adopters, sight unseen. Then I went to an actual Apple store and spent some quality time with a floor model while I waited for mine to arrive. The reality of the Retina MacBook is a study in compromises. Like the wildly popular but often despised crossover SUV’s, my new laptop attempts to be all things to all people, forcing serious trade-off’s in the process. Here are five things that have me second-guessing my impulse buy:


Secrets

Cracking the Facebook Code

How does the social media giant decide who and what to put in your feed? Tom Weber conducts a one-month experiment to break the algorithm, discovering 10 of Facebook’s biggest secrets.

The more digital our daily lives become, the more perplexing the questions seem. Will the growth of social media destroy our notions of privacy? Is democracy helped or harmed by the cacophony of opinions online? And perhaps most confounding: Why does that guy I barely know from the 10th grade keep showing up in my Facebook feed?

If you've ever spent time on Facebook, you've probably pondered that last one. The social-networking giant promises to keep us connected with our friends in exchange for pumping a steady diet of advertising at us—but the algorithms Facebook uses to decide what news to pass along can seem capricious or altogether impenetrable.

The Daily Beast’s one-month experiment into Facebook’s news feed yielded the following discoveries:

  •  A bias against newcomers
  •  “Most Recent” doesn’t tell the whole story.
  •  Links are favored over status updates, and photos and videos trump links.
  •  “Stalking” your friends won’t get you noticed.
  •  Raise your visibility by getting people to comment.
  •  It’s hard to get the attention of “popular kids.”

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.

Taxi!

Hailo Summons Taxis

Yelp for Men?

Rate This Guy

Tech Saver

Put That Phone Down

Connecting...

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.

WHOOSH!

Musk Unveils Hyperloop

ANTICIPATION

Google Glass Frenzy Builds

Technology