Monthly Archives: May 2015

Samsung reportedly making a foldable, dual-screen smartphone


Foldable smartphones have been tipped as the future for several years now, and a new report suggests Samsung will hone the tech first. The Korean tech giant is reportedly developing a foldable, dual-screen smartphone under the codename Project Valley.

We’ve heard previous mumblings that Samsung has filed numerous patents regarding foldable smartphone designs, and now it appears that tech could be on its way to market.

According to SamMobile’s unnamed insiders, Samsung is currently working on a foldable, dual-screen smartphone with the codename Project Valley (or Project V). The report says the handset is in “the extremely early stages of development”, with its ambitious nature meaning that it could be terminated “at any time”.

We don’t have too many details to go on, but the report suggests that users of the dual-screen device would be able to flit between panels using “multiple gestures”.

It’s also thought that Project V would be capable of being folded together in the middle. So for the first time, you may be able to comfortable fit a phablet into your skinny jeans pocket, phew.

Last time we heard about foldable smartphones was in March, when an unnamed Samsung official said he thought foldable tech could debut in 2016. Whether or not Project V was on his radar when he said that is unknown.

Many tech companies including Samsung have shown off bendable displays in the past. With phones like the LG G Flex 2 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge putting it into practice, it’s only natural that foldable phones are the next target.

Until we hear anything official, though, take this news with a pinch of salt. Project V may well be in development, but it’s highly likely it will never see the light of day.


Here’s Why You Spend Spare Time on Facebook


NEW YORK: Can’t help skimming through your Facebook timeline even as you take a break from work? You may just be wired to do so as the brain prepares us to be socially connected to other people even when we get some rest, says a new research.

“The brain has a major system that seems predisposed to get us ready to be social in our spare moments,” said the study’s senior author Matthew Lieberman, professor at University of California, Los Angeles.

During quiet moments, the brain is preparing to focus on the minds of other people — or to “see the world through a social lens,” Lieberman said.

Tracking brain activity of study participants using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, the researchers found that a brain part called dorsomedial prefrontal cortex might turn on during dreams and rest in order to process our recent social experiences and update our understanding of the social world.

“It is part of a network in the brain that turns on when we dream and during periods of rest, in addition to when we explicitly think about other people,” Lieberman said.

“When I want to take a break from work, the brain network that comes on is the same network, we use when we are looking through our Facebook timeline and seeing what our friends are up to,” Lieberman said.

So although Facebook might not have been designed with the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex in mind, the social network is very much in sync with how our brains are wired.

“That is what our brain wants to do, especially when we take a break from work that requires other brain networks,” Lieberman said.

The study was published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.


Awair monitors your home or office’s air quality


Your home’s air quality might be suffering thanks to the traffic or businesses around you, but you might not realize it. Many of the problems in the air can’t be detected without help until they reach fairly serious levels, and so to prevent them from reaching that point we turn to air monitoring technologies. Fortunately, those technologies have become relatively inexpensive over the years and as such have found their way into homes. Awair is the latest example of this, serving as a stereo-like device (it looks like a stereo, is all) that keep tabs on nasties in the air.

Awair is the brainchild of Bitfinder, a San Francisco startup looking to improve your home’s air quality. Awair is a rectangular device that sits on a stand and creates a score based on its analysis of the air it pulls in. This includes basic things like humidity and temperature, as well as more precise things like volatile organic compounds, CO2, and dustiness.

There’s smart home functionality, in that Awair can be connected with other related products like air purifiers and humidifiers, expanding their usefulness by feeding them data. There’s smartphone connectivity, as well, with a related Android and iOS app. Connectivity, quite obviously, happens over the home’s WiFi network.

Awair has gone up for pre-order and will be shipping this fall. The regular price is $199 USD, but those who pre-order from the maker’s website can get it for $149 USD, with extra discounts for larger purchases: $259 USD for two of them, and $479 USD for four of them.


Google Is Working On A Way To Help You Make Payments Hands Free


One of the biggest things Google announced at its I/O keynote was Android Pay, a service to rival Apple Pay and help the company win back some of its pride in the mobile payments segment.

However, Android Pay is more of the company playing catch up with Apple, and over at Googleville that’s not how things work.

The company has already announced a new project called Google Hands Free, that allows users to make in-store payments without ever touching their smartphones.

The service will be tested out in San Francisco at McDonalds and Papa John’s in the coming years, with Google engineers pointing out that it would be massively useful in drive-thru situations where pulling out a phone is still too fiddly.

The company made no mention of how Google Hands Free works or intends to work though, leaving it up to our imagination to figure out what could actually be happening.

PayPal has been toying with handsfree payments for some time now with things such as Beacon, that used Bluetooth to know if a customer had entered the store. In all probability, Google too deploys some form of geo-fencing tech to make it hands free work.


Facebook Messenger sends out ‘creepily’ precise location data, as revealed by Marauders Map Chrome extension


Facebook sends out such precise data to people you chat with that your location can be tracked to individual streets, a new Chrome extension shows.

Every time a person sends a Facebook message from a phone, it sends out their location to the person chatting with them. The extensions scrapes all of that data and overlays it on a map, meaning that a precise chart of people’s movements can be done using those conversations.

The creator of the extension, Aran Khanna, said that he had made it to demonstrate the creepiness of the information that people might be unwittingly sharing.

Some of the data sent out makes it possible to pinpoint locations to less than a meter, he said, and that can be used to figure out people’s regular schedule or to spy on them. Khanna points out that it doesn’t take many messages to work out people’s habits, especially if a number of people collude to share their data.

Facebook defaults to sending out a location with all messages, but it does send out a reminder that it’s doing so when the app is installed and again when a new message is started. The data can be seen from within the app by clicking on individual messages, which brings up a map.

The location sharing can easily be turned off. iOS users can do so by heading to settings and then location services, and turning location off for Facebook Messenger. Android users can go on the app itself, head to its settings, and turn off Location Settings.

For now, the maker of the app says that the extension has been made “non-functional” because its popularity led the mapping service it relied on to pull its support. But people can download the code and run it themselves from Github.

But Aran Khanna also says that he has been “told Facebook is working to fix the issue so don’t expect this code to be functional for long”.


How the Navy SEALs Train for Leadership Excellence


Almost every world-class, high-performance organization takes training and education seriously. But Navy SEALs go uncomfortably beyond. They’re obsessive and obsessed. They are arguably the best in the world at what they do. Their dedication to relentless training and intensive preparation, however, is utterly alien to the overwhelming majority of businesses and professional enterprises worldwide. That’s important, not because I think MBAs should be more like SEALS-I don’t-but because real-world excellence requires more than commitment to educational achievement.

As an educator, I fear world-class business schools and high-performance businesses overinvest in “education” and dramatically underinvest in “training.” Human capital champions in higher education and industry typically prize knowledge over skills. Crassly put, leaders and managers get knowledge and education while training and skills go to those who do the work. That business bias is both dangerous and counterproductive. The SEALS can’t afford it. “Under pressure,” according to SEAL lore, “you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.” When I see just how difficult and challenging it is for so many smart and talented organizations to innovate and adapt under pressure, I see people who are overeducated and undertrained. That scares me.

So I reached out to Brandon Webb, an innovative SEAL trainer/educator, and CEO of Force12 Media for real-world perspective on what industry could learn from a special operations sensibility. Webb, who served in the Navy from 1993 to 2006 and radically redesigned the SEAL training course curriculum, graciously shared his insight about what works – and what fails – when effecting a training transformation.

A member of Seal Team 3, Webb became the Naval Special Warfare Command Sniper Course Manager in 2003. This was a precarious time. The SEALs leadership recognized that technical excellence-better shooting and better shots-didn’t go nearly far enough in addressing the complex environments and demands that would be made upon sniper teams in wartime deployments in multiple theaters. The wartime challenge demanded better collaboration, greater situational awareness and more strategic application of cutting edge technology for the war-fighter. The post-9/11 environment demanded it. In response, some of the radical changes that Webb designed are the following: He broke the class into pairs, assigning mentors to boost support and accountability; he created classes that explore and explain technologies giving participants greater insight into the physics and underlying mechanics of their equipment; and he adopted the “mental management” techniques of Olympic world-champion marksmen, which we were at first reluctantly but then enthusiastically embraced. The results impressed the war-fighting community. SEALs like Marcus Luttrell (Lone Survivor) and Chris Kyle (American Sniper) observed how that course transformed their field capabilities and effectiveness.

“Our instructors were teaching better, and our students were learning better,” Webb noted in The Red Circle, his 2012 SEAL memoir. “The course standards got harder, if anything-but something fascinating happened: Instead of flunking higher numbers of students, we started graduating more. Before we redid the course, SEAL sniper school had an average attrition rate of about 30 percent. By the time we had gone through the bulk of our overhaul, it had plummeted to less than 5 percent.” And as he told me in a recent email exchange, he accomplished this by drawing from many diverse areas outside the military: “We took best practices from teaching, professional sports, and Olympic champions, and we made our course one of the best in the world in a very short period of time.” Webb noted. “We re-wrote the entire curriculum and saw our graduation rate go from 70% to 98% instantly, and hold there.”

Webb explicitly emphasized four transformational training themes. They’re neither obvious nor cliché. Unfortunately, I rarely see them in Fortune 1000 training programs/executive education or elite MBA programs.

1. Produce Excellence, Not “Above Average”

The first describes where Webb simply would not professionally go. “Being very good wasn’t good enough,” Webb declared. “Training programs shouldn’t be designed to deliver competence; they must be dedicated to producing excellence. Serious organizations don’t aspire to be comfortably above average.” “I honestly don’t even want to focus on good or competent,” Webb wrote, “it’s not in my nature and I don’t want to be part of any team or organization that is willing to set this standard. ‘Aim high, miss high,’ and you can quote me on that.”

In other words, training divorced from excellence is mere compliance. It is more “box ticking” than human capital investment. Is “above average” training really worth the time, energy and expense? A kaizen-continuous improvement-ethos is one thing. But customer service and leadership training that only enhances rather than transforms capabilities and skills doesn’t buy very much.

Webb’s hardcore perspective poses an existential challenge to most organizations’ views of human resources. Do they really want training to empower and bring out the best in their people? Or does everyone train with the tacit expectation that excellence matters less than being a bit better? Webb wonders whether most companies are serious about what training can and should mean.

2. Incentivize Excellence Not Competence

This links directly to his second theme around “getting the incentives right.” Even if the training itself is world-class, organizations need recognition and rewards systems that explicitly acknowledge and promote excellence. And, says Webb, also need the courage and integrity to reposition and replace those who can’t-or won’t-step up.

“For training to work it has to be effective and incentives have to be in place (financial, personal growth, promotion, etc.) for training to be effective in the work place and in order to get employee ‘buy in,'” Webb notes. “I’m a big fan of economist Milton Freidman. it’s as simple as creating alignment through incentives and that’s what we did by creating an instructor/student mentor program. The instructors had accountability (they would be evaluated on their student’s performance) which created the right incentive for them to pass. This made a huge difference. Plus we switched to a positive style of teaching and we saw our graduation rate rocket up.”

Should training overwhelmingly focus on skills enhancement? Or must it be managed to build better bonds and relationships throughout the enterprise? Webb unambiguously champions both. The training transformation made the SEALs culture more open to innovation and exchange. Incentives aligning and facilitating accountability improved the entire organization, not just the trainees.

3. Incorporate New Ideas from the Ground

This amplifies Webb’s third theme: successful training must be dynamic, open and innovative. Ongoing transformation-not just incremental improvement-is as important for trainers as trainees. “It’s every teacher’s job to be rigorous about constantly being open to new ideas and innovation,” Webb asserts. “It’s a huge edge, sometime life-saving, to adopt a good idea early and put it into practice.As an instructor I learned that you are never done learning, and your students can be a wealth of information, especially when guys like Chris Kyle would come back from Iraq and make recommendations on how to better train students to the urban sniper environment. We incorporated this type of mission brief back and actively sought out this knowledge from the SEAL sniper’s who were returning from places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and other not so friendly places. Then we would take this knowledge and incorporate it into our yearly curriculum review; if important enough, we’d make the change within weeks. That’s how fast we could adapt our course curriculum and get approvals.”

4. Lead by Example

Getting better at getting better is a vital organizing principle for learning organizations. Arguably Webb’s most passionate training theme is the one that reflects his battlefield experiences, not just his training triumphs. The most important training behavior a leader can demonstrate, he asserts, is leading by example.

“Leading by example means never asking your team to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself,” Webb writes. “This can’t be faked, do it right and your team will respect you and follow you. Don’t do this, especially in a SEAL team, and you are doomed as a leader. I’ve seen it happen, and careers ended when it did. Lead by example and watch your team elevate you with their own accomplishments.”

If your organization cares about innovation or transforming customer service or being data-driven, how do you lead by example? In Laszlo Bock’s otherwise superb Google-based book on performance analytics-Work Rules!-the phrase “lead by example” is nowhere to be found. That’s both a pity and opportunity missed because, as Webb stresses, leading by example is what truly empowers small teams and teamwork.

“I’ve seen small teams accomplish incredible things in training (my times at the sniper school) and combat (Afghanistan and Iraq),” Webb recalls. “In Special Operations environments and top business environments, you have the privilege of working with people who just get the job done at all costs. They are self-motivators. Even if they don’t have the know-how, they will figure it out and just make it happen. It’s amazing to have a whole team that thinks this way, and to see what they can accomplish.”

There are no panaceas. The level of motivation, dedication and self-sacrifice the SEALs demand from themselves and each other goes far, far beyond what most businesses and business schools should ever ask, let alone expect, from their people. But that said, for leaders and managers who truly care about their people and their customers, the SEALs training template deserves to be taken seriously. No one rightly doubts the vital role education plays in creating and sustaining economic competitiveness worldwide. But it’s long past time that CEOs, boards, business schools and universities revisit what world-class training should mean, as well.


Beware! A ‘Bugged’ Text Message is Causing iPhones to Crash


A newly-discovered glitch in software can cause iPhones to mysteriously shut down when they receive a certain text message.

says it’s aware of the problem and is working on a fix. But some pranksters are sharing information about the glitch on social media and using it to crash other peoples’ phones.

The problem only occurs when the iPhone receives a message with a specific string of characters, including some Arabic characters, according to several tech blogs. When an iPhone isn’t being used, it typically shows a shortened version of the message on the phone’s lock screen. That shortened combination of characters apparently triggers the crash.

Most annoying message ever: effective. Power لُلُصّبُلُلصّبُررً  h   冗 Send that to someone with an iPhone it turns their phone off

– Manny Taylor (@MTaylor_99) May 27, 2015
Affected phones will restart automatically. Owners can prevent the problem by using phone settings to turn off the message “previews” feature.


Twitter launches live video streaming Periscope app on Android


Twitter has launched live video streaming app Periscope app on the Android platform. Handsets with Android 4.4 or above can download the Periscope app from the Google Play Store.

Periscope for Android will let users watch and record broadcasts from their smartphone. When you sign up for the first time the app will ask you to follow everyone you are following on Twitter. Once you login, the app opens to a list of current and recent broadcasts from users you’re following. Users can also view broadcasts from around the globe by swiping right to the next screen. A third screen shows your user profile and allows users to search for people by their name. It also shows a list of the most popular users on the app.

The Periscope app was launched on iOS two months back and brings some minor Android-specific changes. On iOS users broadcast a video using the central tab, while Android users will be able to broadcast a video by using the floating button at the bottom right, which is in line with Google’s Material Design. The app is popular with celebrities and media personalities and reached 1 million users in the first 10 days of its launch.

Periscope was acquired by Twitter in January this year and competes with rival live-broadcast app, Meerkat. Users can sign-up on the app with their phone numbers and don’t require a Twitter account. Twitter has also blocked Meerkat’s access to its social graph, making it difficult for users to find and notify their followers.

Meerkat was also launched on iOS two months back and on Android platform in April. The app was updated to version 1.0 earlier this month. Meerkat comes with address book integration and allows users to sign in with Facebook Connect to view live video streams as well as post live and upcoming streams onto their Facebook Pages.

Speaking of the Android launch and the reasons for the delay, the Periscope team said on a blog post, “As a small startup, our initial launch was limited to just iOS, but we’ve been working really hard to craft an experience that feels special on Android, yet still unmistakably Periscope.”

Source: Google Play Store

Hooq, online streaming service announced in India


Singtel, Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros. have teamed up to launch a new online streaming service in India called the Hooq. The service will include offline viewing option, wide range of content including Hollywood and Indian movies, and television content. The service supports devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets and Android set-top boxes. Hooq will be available in India from June for Rs. 199 a month. The service will also be accessible to all customers in India through its website

Hooq is touted to have the biggest Hollywood catalogue that includes more than 5,000 Hollywood movies and television series and TV shows. This includes titles from Sony, Warner Bros., Disney, Dreamworks, and Miramax such as Harry Potter, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Pulp Fiction, and TV series such as Nikita, The Shield, Friends, Lost and Grey’s Anatomy. In addition, Hooq offers over 10,000 Indian film and TV content. To deliver this, HOOQ has partnered with India’s popular studios, including YRF, UTV Disney, Rajshri, Reliance, Shemaroo, Sri Balaji, AP International, Whacked Out Media and over 50 other studios. Customers can watch local high-grossing films such as Chennai Express, Vishwaroopam, as well as classic films including Ek Duje Ke Liya and Andaz Apna Apna. Hooq will be competing with services such as Spuul, Hotstar and Bigflix. Also read: How to legally get movies & music for cheap online

“We are very excited to bring to Indian consumers the ultimate ad-free video-on-demand service at an amazingly low price. Hooq will offer India the largest and best catalogue of Hollywood and Indian content of any service available today,” said HOOQ Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Peter Bithos. “Our ambition is to always bring the best experience with no compromises. We’ve built our service knowing the constraints and infrastructure issues faced by customers every day. We have designed our service specifically for the challenges of India and other countries like it. Hooq offers features to ensure you enjoy an uninterrupted viewing experience; including a custom setting for your quality preference, a bandwidth indicator to assess your internet connectivity and adaptive streaming to maximise available bandwidth,” he added.

“The growing interconnectivity and rapid adoption of smart devices present a great opportunity to enhance the way people live, work and play in Asia. With HOOQ, we want to revolutionize entertainment for our customers.” said Mr. Samba Natarajan, Singtel CEO, Group Digital Life. “Our unique telco assets and our partnership with Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros. will position Hooq to become the largest over-the-top video service in the region.” Mr. George Chien, Executive Vice President, Networks at Sony Pictures Television, said: “We share the excitement of offering entertainment fans across Asia access to high quality video services directly to their mobile devices. Hooq provides a unique combination of Hollywood and local favorites while providing a high-quality viewing experience they’ve come to expect in today’s digital world.”

Mr. Anuraj Goonetilleke, Vice President Corporate Business Development and Strategy at Warner Bros. said: ‘We’re very excited about the launch of our joint video-on-demand business across Asia, starting with the Philippines, Thailand and now in India. Providing world-class content to Asia’s entertainment fans will meet a voracious appetite for new and classic videos and TV episodes on-demand.’


Hyundai is first to offer Android Auto system


Hyundai is the first carmaker to offer Google’s Android Auto system. Starting today, Android smartphone users with a 2015 Sonata can ask dealers to download the system for free.

Drivers must have a Sonata with navigation, which is part of an optional technology package. Android Auto will soon be available on other Hyundai models. Android Auto connects to drivers’ smartphones and lets them access certain apps, like Google Maps or Spotify, by voice, steering wheel controls or touchscreen graphics on the dashboard. It locks their phones while in use to help keep drivers’ eyes on the road.

Google says Android Auto is expected to be offered on 28 different brands by the 2016 model year. Hyundai says it expects to offer Apple’s version of the system, CarPlay, sometime soon.


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