Will iOS 4.1 Improve the 3G?

The internet is buzzing after the Apple conference yesterday and while some pretty exciting announcements were made, the announcement of the iOS 4.1 is probably the most exciting. When the 4.1 OS rolls out next week, Steve Jobs has assured iPhone users that many of the bugs that have gotten a lot of coverage lately.  Some of the things that Apple says the 4.1 OS will fix are the proximity sensors, issues with the Bluetooth not staying connected, and performance repairs to the 3G.

For those that updated their 3G to the new 4.0 OS, this may be music to your ears. Many 3G users had to revert their operating systems off the 4.0, simply because the devices responded so poorly to the update. As someone who\ had a 3G, some of the problems I had were slow texting and slow application loading times.

Lifehacker has posted a comparison video in a recent blog, laying out the two operating systems on a 3G and showing you the response time.  While the demonstration and testing was not what one would be considered to be “scientific”, it looks like what they have found is that the 4.1 OS wins, but not by as much as you would think.

They are of the opinion that 4.1 probably isn’t enough to drop iOS 3 completely, but for users who want the new operating system with a little bit better response and performance, the 4.1 is going to be your best bet.

You can check out the full Lifehacker iOS 4.1 video and make your own decision.

Application of the Week: WaitList

George: Should we tell him we’re leaving?

Elaine: What for? Let’s just get out of here. (They all leave) …

Restaurant Host: Seinfeld, Four?

Episode 16, Season 2. Seinfeld. “The Chinese Restaurant”

If this describes your usual experience at a bar or restaurant on any given night, you’ll take comfort in knowing that The Onion AV Club has solved some of your dinner problems. WaitList for the iPhone is a free application that lets you know how long you’ll be waiting for nearby restaurants, bars, or clubs.

WaitList uses the GPS feature on your phone to show you local restaurants in your area. Once your name is on the seating list, you log into WaitList, find the location and update the wait time that your hostess has given you. Once you update it into the application, when someone else logs in to check out the location, they’ll see the time you’ve indicated. You can also send wait time updates directly to your Twitter account.

Popular location related se rvices like FourSquare are being used by companies to update local markets on current conditions. With WaitList, local vendors are going to be able to update their own wait times. With active Twitter accounts, restaurants can push out their updates and help people know how long they will be waiting for. This lets them be ahead of their customers, so that no one comes into a restaurant unprepared for how long they may be waiting.

One problem with the application is that you don’t have any restrictions to which location you can update wait times for. Let’s say there are two bars across the street from each other, one bar might update the others wait times to much longer than they actually are to drive business across the stree.

Now you just have to decide where to eat. 

Cyber Security Pressing Issue of UN Elections

The Secretary-General of the United Nations and head of the International Telecommunications Union, Hamadoun Touré, has targeted cyber security as a pressing issue. At a discussion in London on Thursday, he proposed a global cyber security peace treaty, stating, “A cyber war would be worse than a tsunami – we have to avoid it.”

The world has already been taking steps to protect itself from possible cyber attacks, but as more and more infrastructure, like banking, energy, and utility services begin to become tied to the internet – a cyber attack could be more devastating. In 2007, Estonia suffered attacks that attacked banking and government sites.

The ITU is hoping that a “common code of conduct against cybercrime” can be reached and that each country will pledge that citizens can connect to the internet as well as protecting against cyber criminals.

The need for a Geneva Convention like cyber security treaty continues to grow, with Touré adding, “We’re in a new world order today.”

If you’re a history nerd like me, you might find it interesting to note that this is not the first time that advancements in technology have spurned concerns over international cooperation.

In 1899, little known negotiations began in The Hague.  These meetings between nations were known as the Peace Conferences, the first being held in 1899 and the second in 1907, and their purpose was to define the rules of war.

Ironically, the third Peace Conference had been planned for 1915, but with the start of World War I in 1914, the third round of conferences never came to be. The Peace Conferences were first proposed by Nicolas II of Russia, who knew that with the growth of modern technology, there needed to be clearly defined rules regarding weapons technology, and what was acceptable to be used. (It’s interesting to note that Nicolas II was the one who approved the mobilization of Russian troops in 1914, and began the steady domino fall into WW I.)

Tsar Nicolas II was able to recognize that the change of weapons and the Industrialization of the modern world required new rules to be put in place. Technology has come a long way since before WWI and there are new kinds of weaponry to be addressed. 

Chinese Smartphones Go Global

Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, released a Google Android equipped smartphone called the Idoes, a move that signals China’s first foray into the global smartphone market.

The Ideos goes on sale in China next week, but Huawei, which is already one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, plans to market the phone in Europe, Latin America, and—yes—North America too.

Though this is not the countries first smartphone, it is the first smartphone that will be marketed globally.

And if any of the Chinese companies are currently suited to do it, it’s Huawei. The company has made its fortune as one of the world’s largest telecom equipment suppliers, and it is known as the most technologically advanced companies in China.

Huawei teamed up with Google to create the Ideos, which has a body and shiny screen similar to the iPhone, but boasts a Google logo on the back.

According to the New York Times, the company has spoken with several network providers worldwide, and several companies are interested.

The phone will be marketed as an entry-level smartphone and will cost somewhere between $100 and $200.

Huawei is the same company that riled congress members when it tried to broker equipment supplier contracts with American telecom companies earlier this month. The company is privately owned but has reportedly received funding and support from the Chinese government.

Despite this and the controversy between Google and Chinese-government censorship, the two companies remained undeterred.

Americans should expect to see the Lenovo, which will be offered in several color choices, sometime before the year’s end.

Free National Broadband Dropped by FCC

The Federal Communications Commission has decided to abandon the project that would have provided free national broadband services.

According to recent reports from the likes of Gizmodo, the FCC decided that the project, 10 years in the making, would be too costly to implement. The project would have taken an additional ten years to implement and would have required a heavy investment from M2Z Networks. This money would have been paid back through advertisements.

Ruth Milkman, the FCC Wireless Bureau chief told Ars Technia, “We gave careful and thorough consideration to the proposal, but ultimately determined that this was not the best policy outcome.”

She adds that they “remain vigilant in our efforts to facilitate the universal deployment and adoption of broadband, especially through the much needed reform to the Universal Service Fund.”

The proposal M2Z was presenting offered free broadband services of 768Kbps, one of the slowest speeds available to be considered broadband. M2Z urges understanding that their proposal wasn’t about providing top of the line services, simply allowing for those who have not had the opportunity for broadband speeds to keep up with the digital age.

With more media publications and television coming online, broadband services could be a requirement in the future to keep up with the breaking news across the world. 

There’s no word yet on what the FCC will be presenting in the failed proposals place, but I would imagine that it has something to do with their current discussion of the USF. 

Bedbugs in Hotels

In an analysis conducted by USA Today on TripAdvisor, traveler reviews including complaints of bedbugs in hotels have jumped 11 percent nationwide.

The study was prompted because of repeated headlines in New York City regarding an influx of bedbugs in hotels there. In fact, the study found a 12 percent jump in bedbug complaints in Big Apple hotels.

The nationwide analysis took a snapshot of TripAdvisor hotel reviews for the first eight months of 2009 and 2010 and compared them to find the 11 percent jump in bedbug mentions.

Bedbugs are tiny parasitic insects that feed preferentially on human blood, and though they were thought to have been largely eradicated by DDT in the developed world, they have lately been resurging. And, in the New York area at least, they seem to have expensive taste.

In July, the creepy crawlers invaded the Manhattan offices of CNN, and they infested a Hollister clothing shop in SoHo, causing the shop to close down.

In another incident, Pop Singer Lauren Hildebrandt complained of painful, itchy bumps after staying in a posh, $500-a-night NYC hotel. Upon examination they were discovered to have been bedbugs, which had plagued her during her sleep.

Hildebrandt was so put-off by the incident that she instructed her public relations team to issue a statement warning travelers about the bugs. She would not, however, release the name of the hotel.

In July, the USA Today ran a poll via their Hotel Check-In service that surveyed 4,200 people. Of those surveyed, 47 percent said they don’t fully unpack their bags, many citing fear of bringing bedbugs home.


Hurricane Earl to Disrupt East Coast

Late Thursday, Hurricane Earl will be within striking distance of North Carolina.  Earl is expected to turn northwards right before the coast and not make landfall, but that remains to be seen.   When predicted to make the turn, any delays in as little as a six hour time window will determine if the Hurricane will cross onto land or not, and at what force.

Earl had been classified as a Category 4 hurricane, but is now Category 3.  However, despite being downgraded, it is still a major storm.  Hurricane warnings are in effect in North Carolina, with tropical storm warnings up the coast.

Airlines have made announcements preparing travelers to expect delays or cancellations.  Continental Airlines in particular is offering penalty-free changes to itineraries affected up to and through September 5th.

Evacuation orders have been issued for islands along the eastern seaboard.  Coastal residents in general need to prepare for Earl, as even without landfall the hurricane’s effects will reach the mainland.

A fully charged cell phone is a necessity, and a smartphone can have multiple emergency uses.  It can be used to stay informed of Earl’s progress through weather websites with up-to-the-minute tracking.  Two-way, push-to-talk radios and cell phones are good to have as communications alternatives.  And some smartphone models even have a flashlight app.

Have an evacuation plan ready for the family, including rally points, and communication contingencies.  A Google Groups or similar collaboration site is perfect for emergency family planning and communication, and in case of separation can be used anywhere with internet access.

Your Brain on Technology, A Saturated Sponge?

Last Sunday, I found myself sunk in my couch, arranged with a plate of chicken and rice for dinner, a drink in one hand and a remote control in the other. I had a blanket over my legs and my iPhone on the cushion next to me. I was ready to watch my favorite television shows on HBO. Gradually, however, a thought began to inch into my mind. Like a tick, this thought began to discomfit me. I wanted my laptop. I could see it in the other room. It beckoned me. How was I supposed to surf the Internet during my shows without it?

I observe situations like this almost everywhere I go: I notice it on the elevator when I grab for my iPhone to avoid interacting socially with the strangers in my proximity; I see it at the gym when exercisers flip through television channels as they pump their legs on treadmills; I see it at dinner parties when my friends lower their eyelids like poker players to tap out texts during a lull in conversation. It appears that now, with cell phones in our pockets and with Google algorithms primed fantastically to feed us answers to our questions, the tiniest windows of time are being filled with media. And while this media can turn moments of downtime into productive blips, a long-standing debate over the pros and cons of constant connectivity is becoming more volatile.

A study from the University of Michigan tested the capacities of two groups of people to concentrate and learn information. Before studying identical information, one group took a stroll in nature and the other group took a stroll in an urban setting. The nature group learned significantly better, leading the researches to conclude that processing a lot of information, characteristic in urban environments, causes the brain to tire. Therefore, giving the brain time to recoup, as it did in the natural environment, enhances its capacity to learn.

Perhaps even more alarming is the assertion by Harvard-educated scholar, Nicholas Carr, who wrote an article called, “Is Google Making us Stupid?” In the article, Carr explains that the rapid functionality of the Internet—with pop ups, links, email notifications, and a tendency toward shallow consumption of information—is actually rewiring the circuitry of our brains. Carr writes, “My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

Carr contends that our ever-malleable brains are constantly being remodeled as nodes are unplugged and new circuits are routed. Since our brains adapt so quickly, the old channels that used to serve higher concentration on, say, books or creativity, are becoming eroded. This erosion, some scientists suggest, could lead to attention deficit disorder or depression.

It’s not all bad though. Camped on the other side of the debate are people like Wired Magazine’s Clive Thompson. In his essay, “the New Literacy” Thompson argues that people are reading and writing far more than they did during the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s when television was the main medium. Thompson writes, “Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text…they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.”

Thompson also points out that the new type of writing, geared toward reaching an audience, requires concise and communicative prose, a positive step away from the esoteric pontifications of writers before. In his assessment, this democratizes the language. Where people used words like esoteric and pontification, they are now tending toward words like lofty and preachy—which the average reader understands. For Thompson, Twitter updates and text messages are a far cry from defilers of the English language. They are the promoters who bring regular people into it.

Taking the argument even further is writer and NYU professor Clay Shirky, whose idea of “cognitive surplus” posits that the low cost and the ease-of-sharing associated with the Internet has been a boon to creativity. In a TED presentation, Shirky explains that advances in technology have opened up vast amounts of free time for human beings. Until the Internet, this free time used to be eaten up by passive entertainment like television or video gaming. Now that the Internet is available, Shirky says, a shift has occurred in that humans with free time are devoting it to creating.

“The very nature of these new technologies fosters social connection—creating, contributing, sharing,” Shirky said in an interview with Wired Magazine. “This lets ordinary citizens, who’ve previously been locked out, pool their free time for activities they like and care about.”

Shirky says the free time we have for creating, or “cognitive surplus,” is poured into everything from the trivial site lolcats.com, where people post funny pictures of cats, to serious political activities like Ushahidi.com, where people update and map instances of social suffering. Though some sites are less substantial than others, they still spark peoples’ creativity.

More importantly, when people collectively collaborate on the Internet new feats of humanity and knowledge become attainable. Shirky sites Wikipedia as an example. The articles, the edits, and the arguments behind the articles represent about 100 million hours of human labor. Wikipedia, the most extensive encyclopedia, was built virtually for free through collective cognitive surplus.

So where does this leave us? Are we doomed to being shallow-thinking automatons ruled by Google, or is the Internet helping us dig deeper to reach new potentials of creativity and collective conscious?

Most are inclined to think it’s a combination of both. These are the typical convulsions of new technology. Plato lamented the invention of the written word, saying it would supplant the need to exercise memory. Yet, he couldn’t see the vast historical repository, the potential for teaching, the aid in deeper contemplation that the written word brought about.

This past summer a group of neuroscientists from both sides of the argument went on a rafting trip down Glen Canyon, Utah to study the effects of nature’s respite on the brain. At the end of a lengthy New York Times article, the scientists remained unconvinced either way. They felt relaxed after having been in nature, to be sure. However, they said the adaptability of the brain allows our circuits to become exercised and better able to cope with the barrage of information that we are constantly immersed in during our urbanite lives.

At the end, they recommended the Golden Mean: if your thinking gets cluttered, go for a stroll without your earbuds and your iPod.

Maybe instead of getting up for my laptop, I should’ve given my brain a rest by eating my Sunday night meal in the sanctity of my own thoughts.

Hallmark Moment

This morning, the news came down the wire that AT&T U-Verse customers would no longer have access to Hallmark Channel programming. Crown Media has stated via press release they are happy to re-start negotiations with AT&T. Talks broke down over new carriage agreements sometime last week, and as of 12:01AM ET, the Hallmark family of channels went dark. We’ve all seen these stories before, where renegotiations are going on, and both sides are urging customers to contact the other company to demand they do not lose programming.

This situation has been no different except that the Hallmark Channel has found a way to use social media to their benefit, even though they negotiations have still fallen through and the channels have been blacked out. They sent a very powerful message through Facebook and Twitter, both on their sites, and the AT&T U-Verse site.

Starting with the Don’t Take My Hallmark Site, Hallmark drove traffic both to their site as well as the AT&T pages, urging customers to comment and share their concerns. The results have been impressive:

  • Over 1500 comments urging AT&T to keep the family programming channels.
  • 4,580 FaceBook likes to the U-Verse related posts on the HallMark Channel fan page.
  • Multiple tweets and conversations with current fans of Hallmark.

Despite the failed negotiations to continue carrying programming for AT&T U-Verse customers, Hallmark more than doubled their traffic to their social sites and web site, and all since August 26th when they started the campaign. The number of likes they have gotten from the campaign and the comments on their pages will undoubtedly remain, and the Google search for “Hallmark Channel” have their Twitter, Press Page, and FaceBook on the first page of results. What can you learn from Hallmark Channel’s campaign?

  • Call to action. Not only did Hallmark tell their customers what was going to happen, they told them what to do about it – go to the AT&T U-Verse fan page and let their thoughts be known.
  • Monitoring. From the looks of things, Hallmark was prepared for social media to hit the ground running. Not only were they looking for mentions of their company, but they were directing their people to use it to get the message out.
  • Gave a reason why or why not. Every couple of months, battles like this arise, but Hallmark was quick to state what the negotiations were NOT about, taking to Twitter to clear up rumors they wanted more money. “It wasn’t Hallmark demanding big $$$ that got the networks taken off. We’re actually very disappointed that this happened. Thank you”.

What do you think? Did Hallmark hit a homerun here, even though they are no longer carried on U-Verse, they did get a HUGE turn out through social media and can show their results right on their Facebook page. Did they win or lose?

Note: You can check out the individual press releases from Hallmark and AT&T.

iPhone App Earns You Free Plane Ticket Today

Loopt Star is an iPhone app that gives you local and immediate rewards when you “check in” at certain locations.  For example, if you were to check in at a Starbucks, you might have a 10% discount waiting at the counter.  For today, if you check in at select locations in San Francisco or Los Angeles, you will receive a two-for-one plane ticket deal from Virgin America Airlines to Mexico.  Not only that, but you can get two tacos for $1 as well!

Checkins and check in rewards are fast becoming available in many places.  It was only recently that checking in at a location would simply get you in-game points or rewards.  But now businesses are realizing the potential of people with smartphones in their shops.  Using actual real-world rewards to encourage people to stay and buy, or return again is the natural and powerful next step.

Loopt Star is the real-world rewards version of Loopt, a previous iPhone app that used GPS positioning for users to check in and get points usable only within the app itself. Loopt Star is also one of the first apps to base itself on the new Facebook Places location sharing program.

Other GPS-location sharing, checkin apps not far behind with real-world rewards and discounts for their players are Foursquare and Gowalla.