Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Post-Idea World

Posted by Soulskill  
from the shiny-objects-trump-shiny-thoughts dept.
An anonymous reader sends this quote from an opinion piece in the NY Times:"If our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it's not because we are dumber than our forebears but because we just don't care as much about ideas as they did. In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can't instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them, the Internet notwithstanding. Bold ideas are almost passé. ... There is the eclipse of the public intellectual in the general media by the pundit who substitutes outrageousness for thoughtfulness, and the concomitant decline of the essay in general-interest magazines. And there is the rise of an increasingly visual culture, especially among the young — a form in which ideas are more difficult to express. But these factors, which began decades ago, were more likely harbingers of an approaching post-idea world than the chief causes of it."

Hard Truths About HTML5

Posted by Soulskill  
from the does-not-julienne-fries dept.
snydeq writes"Peter Wayner discusses a number of hard truths Web developers must accept in making the most of HTML5 — especially those who are looking to leverage HTML5 in hopes of unseating native apps. 'The truth is, despite its powerful capabilities, HTML5 isn't the solution for every problem. Its additional features are compelling and will help make Web apps formidable competitors for native apps, but security issues, limitations of local data storage, synchronization challenges, and politics should have us all scaling back our expectations for the spec.'"

Do Spoilers Ruin a Good Story? No, Say Researchers

Posted by Soulskill  
from the maybe-researchers-are-just-jerks dept.
Hugh Pickens writes"According to a recent study at the University of California San Diego, knowing how a book ends does not ruin its story and can actually enhance enjoyment. It suggests people may enjoy a good story as much as a good twist at the end, and even if they know the outcome, will enjoy the journey as much as the destination. 'It could be that once you know how it turns out, you're more comfortable processing the information and can focus on a deeper understanding of the story,' says co-author Jonathan Leavitt. Researchers gave 12 short stories to 30 participants where two versions were spoiled and a third was not. In all but one story, readers said they preferred versions which had spoiling paragraphs written into it. Even when the stories contained a plot twist or mystery, subjects preferred the spoiled versions. 'Plots are just excuses for great writing,' says social psychologist Nicholas Christenfeld. 'As a film director, your job isn't really to come to the conclusion that the butler did it. A single line would do that.'"

Monday, August 15, 2011

Beware: McAfee selling iOS protection you already have

The security firm is happy to charge you $20 for what Apple provides at no cost -- and that some Android and BlackBerry users have at least partially
Follow @MobileGalen
McAfee today announced that the iOS edition of its WaveSecure mobile security software lets you remotely wipe or lock your iPhone or iPad from a Web portal, as well as back up contacts, photos, and videos to its servers for safekeeping in case a device is lost, stolen, or damaged.
Which is all well and good, except Apple has offered the remote wipe and lock features for more than a year at no charge to all iOS users via its free Find My iPhone/iPad service, and its iTunes software has backed up all that data (and more) since the very first iPhone shipped in 2007. Theforthcoming iCloud will also do that backup online -- at no charge -- without iTunes.
Apple has much to learn about securing Mac OS X -- and Microsoft could teach it how. Luckily, iOS security is much, much better. | Compare the security and management capabilities of iOS, Android, WebOS, Windows Phone 7, and more in InfoWorld's Mobile Management Deep Dive PDF report. ]
So what is the point of McAfee's $20 offering to do the same thing Apple provides at no cost?
One of McAfee's answers was amusing: It said iOS users could retrieve the backed-up information from Android or other devices that support WaveSecure. Yeah, sure -- iOS users will switch to Android or BlackBerry if their iPhone or iPad is lost, stolen, or damaged. Never mind that data is available through iTunes and soon iCloud.
Another answer was scary: "It enables telcos and ISPs to keep the user loyal to the network instead of the device," said Lianne Caetano, McAfee's marketing director for consumer mobile products. In other words, your WaveSecure backup is tied to your carrier, so should you change carriers, you lose that backup. That's not the case at all with iTunes and iCloud.
Carriers and their technology partners need to get a clue: Smartphones are not interchangeable devices as past cellphones were. People buy iPhones, BlackBerrys, or Androids because they want an iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android -- not because it comes from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless. The carrier is a secondary concern, based on local coverage quality and your family or business plan. McAfee's carrier-centric motivation should be a red flag that its WaveSecure product isn't really aimed to help you, the user.
Like its rival Symantec, McAfee has been eager to convince mobile users that they need antimalware software on their smartphones and tablets, even though these devices -- with thenotable exception of Android -- can live without it. That may change in the future, but for now,mobile devices are safer than PCs.

Proof Android is not open source -- and why that's good

Google tapped into the open source community only to regret it later and muddied the Android platform. That can all end now
Since its introduction in fall 2008, Android has been positioned as an open source OS that would take the best of the community and reinvent mobile computing. Well, Android certainly has emerged as a powerhouse mobile OS, accounting for the majority of smatrtphone sales for months now. But it's not open source.
Google has finally acknowledged that its characterization of Android is false, although it continues to claim that open source nature on its website. How? Google complained this week that Microsoft had no right to show the Android source code to an expert witness in one of those many patent battles being waged on the mobile front. If the Android code were in fact open source, there could be no such restriction on showing the code -- it would be available to anyone. That's what open source means.
[ See all of InfoWorld's tablet deathmatch comparisons and personalize the tablet scores to your needs. Also see our personalizable smartphone comparisons. | Compare the security and management capabilities of iOS, Android, WebOS, Windows Phone 7, and more in InfoWorld's Mobile Management Deep Dive PDF report. ]
The truth is that parts of Android are open source and other parts are not. There's nothing wrong with that -- in fact, it's extremely common these days in software development, a testament to the positive attributes of open source.
In its early Android days, Google appeared to be sincere about its open source claims and ambitions, driven by the enthusiastic, trusting nature of youth. However, over time, Google has begun to close parts of Android to better compete with Apple's iOS as the dark side of open source -- conflicting directions and unstoppable sloppiness -- began to appear. The open source nature of Android was leading to inconsistencies in user experience that hurt the platform, whereas Apple's sharp focus made each rev of iOS better and consistent across the platform. In comparison, Android looked like a failed state in the making, sort of a mobile version of Yugoslavia after Tito -- OK, not that bad, but the direction was not good.
It's hard for believers to accept that open source brings with it difficulties, but look at the consistent failure of the other open source mobile platforms -- Moblin, Maemo, and MeeGo -- that all devolved into grad-student-like thought experiments and personal pet projects. Users don't want that, and ultimately products are sold to users. If you look at the most successful open source efforts -- Linus Torvalds's Linux comes to mind -- it takes strong leadership to steer and sometimes override the community for the greater good. It's not a pure democracy, at least not if it works. Google doesn't seem to have a Torvalds to manage Android effectively in a pure open source environment.

Space Elevator conference gets theoretical, says lift won't not happen in 150 years

By   posted Aug 15th 2011 5:36AM
Space Elevator Conference gets theoretical, says it won't not happen for 150 years
With the shuttle program being mothballed, we're going to need a new way to get off this rock. How about that old space ladder concept? You know, the one riddled with issues that nearly trump its ambitions. The idea has faced its share of technological walls: NASA's related Beam Power Challenge ended without a winner for years on end, and the project's Tether Challenge remains unconquered today. Not to mention that the week-long lift might expose you to deadly levels of radiation. Lucky for us, attendees of the annual Space Elevator Conference aren't ready to give up, and set to work last week brainstorming potential solutions. Could we replace the laser power system with solar panels? How strong are modern nanocarbons, and what issues do we need to be aware of to keep the carbon nanotube cables from breaking? Wouldn't it be cool if the next design featured six cars instead of just three? Although the outpouring of ideas flowed like water, the response to many of them seemed to be the same: we really need to look into that. Despite the seemingly insurmountable issues, researchers remain optimistic, "We try not to be narrow-minded and say it won't happen for 150 years," stated one NASA program manager. We'll just take the stairs, thanks.

Slowing the Allergic March

ScienceDaily (Aug. 14, 2011) — A pandemic of ailments called the "allergic march" -- the gradual acquisition of overlapping allergic diseases that commonly begins in early childhood -- has frustrated both parents and physicians. For the last three decades, an explosion of eczema, food allergies, hay fever, and asthma have afflicted children in the United States, the European Union, and many other countries.

UN Climate Report Fails To Capture Arctic Ice: MIT

Posted by timothy  
from the models-in-collision dept.
An anonymous reader writes"The United Nations' most recent global climate report 'fails to capture trends in Arctic sea-ice thinning and drift, and in some cases substantially underestimates these trends,' says a new research from MIT. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007, forecasts an ice-free Arctic summer by the year 2100. However, the Arctic sea ice may be thinning four times faster than predicted, according to Pierre Rampal and his research team of MIT's Department of Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS)."

Maternal IV Fluids Linked to Newborns' Weight Loss

ScienceDaily (Aug. 14, 2011) — A newborn baby's weight loss is often used to determine how well a baby is breastfeeding, and concern about a baby which loses too much weight may result in supplementing breastfeeding with formula. However, many women receive IV fluids during labor, and new research published in BMC's open access journal International Breastfeeding Journalshows that some of a newborn's initial weight loss may be due to the infant regulating its hydration and not related to a lack of breast milk.

Jupiter-Sized Alien Planet Is Darkest Ever (Barely) Seen

Posted by timothy  
from the none-more-black dept.
thebchuckster writes"The darkest alien world ever spotted by astronomers has been discovered in the outskirts of our galaxy. 'It's darker than the blackest lump of coal, than dark acrylic paint you might paint with. It's bizarre how this huge planet became so absorbent of all the light that hits it,' David Kipping, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics."