Articles filed under Technology

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  • Debate over test security vs. student privacy rages in the age of social media Mar 29, 2015 7:33 AM
    Test-security handbooks say that looking in on social media is not only acceptable but is a best practice, and such monitoring has become commonplace on professional licensure exams, college-entrance tests and many other assessments that can elicit a temptation to cheat. It is so widespread that there are companies dedicated to such data mining.

     
  • The sex discrimination trial that rocked Silicon Valley. What you need to know. Mar 28, 2015 7:40 AM
    Over the past month, a gender discrimination trial has gripped Silicon Valley. The suit pits one of Silicon Valley’s most established venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, against a former employee, Ellen Pao, who alleges she was discriminated against at the firm. Throughout the case, lawyers for both sides have painted dramatically different pictures of the lives of women who work for the firm. But soon a jury is to decide which version of events they find more credible.

     
  • Wall Street women heading to Silicon Valley could narrow gender gap Mar 28, 2015 7:35 AM
    When Google tapped the 28-year Morgan Stanley veteran as its new chief financial officer, Porat became not only the latest from Wall Street to migrate to the technology industry but also the highest-ranking woman at the world’s largest Web search provider. Other tech companies need financial expertise and would benefit from an infusion of female talent as they face criticism about the lack of diversity in leadership ranks.

     
  • Fraud raises question of whether Apple Pay is secure Mar 28, 2015 7:29 AM
    A sharp rise in reports of fraudulent Apple Pay transactions is now raising questions about the security of the first mobile payment system to find a measure of popular success. One payments analyst, Cherian Abraham, estimated that as many as 6 percent of Apple Pay purchases are completed with stolen credit cards, or 60 times the rate of the old-fashioned plastic swipe.

     
  • Here’s why the Apple Watch won’t free you from your iPhone Mar 28, 2015 7:31 AM
    If the Apple Watch turns into a device primarily used to subtly glance at phone notifications, it will have failed. Think of our devices as roads for information. The transition from desktops to smartphones was like the transition from two-lane roads to highways. Adding a smartwatch is like adding a lane.

     
  • What you don’t know about Internet algorithms is hurting you Mar 28, 2015 7:34 AM
    Algorithms are now so widespread, and so subtle, that some sociologists worry that they function as a form of “social control.” (That is, at least, the title of a keynote at an upcoming academic conference called Theorizing the Web, where technologists and sociologists will discuss “algorithms as a type of social engineering.”)

     
  • How the golden age of domain trolling was born Mar 28, 2015 7:38 AM
    The 2016 race has scarcely begun, and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz already has an image problem. Typing tedcruz.com into your URL bar returns a black page that says “SUPPORT PRESIDENT OBAMA” in unequivocal all-caps. Tedcruzforamerica.com redirects to Healthcare.gov. TedCruz.ca confirms that the U.S. senator from Texax was, indeed, born Canadian. Tedcruz2016.com is pretty harmless -- a carousel of scenic photos, with the promise that a real site is “coming soon” -- but its owner has nothing to do with the Cruz campaign, and who knows what he or she is actually up to. Never fear, Cruz fans: Your champion did eventually find an open domain name, in the cold and less-trafficked waters of the .org domain. But the fact that his trolls conquered so much ground speaks to how popular this type of Internet tomfoolery has recently become. And in two short months, it’s going to get even worse: That’s when three of the most controversial new top-level domains -- .porn, .adult and .sucks -- are released to a merciless public. Taylor Swift already snapped up Web addresses on those domains to make sure no one uses them against her. But as ICANN, the group that oversees and regulates domains, continues to make more of them available, the Internet is only getting bigger and more troll-able. New domains -- .singles, .holiday, .guitars, .buzz, .gripe -- have rolled out almost every week since ICANN began this latest round of domain expansion in October 2013. If you’re trying to protect your brand or reputation, good luck: T. Swift may have taylorswift.porn, but that still leaves taylorswift.sexy and taylorswift.pizza. What is domain trolling, exactly? And how is it even legal? Given the strong anti-impersonation protections that most social networks supply, the ability to register an entire website in someone else’s name seems kind of ... medieval. And yet, there’s very little stopping jokesters, investors or less scrupulous entrepreneurs from buying up desirable Web addresses and either holding them for ransom or using them to straight-up troll. “You can register anything you want in a domain name,” sums up Karl Kronenberger, a partner at the Internet law firm Kronenberger Rosenfeld. Ihatethewashingtonpost.com? Yep. Caitlindewey.sucks? Unfortunately. These rules can vary by domain, of course, since each domain is managed by a different company. (Monolith Registry, the company that manages .vote and .voto, bans deceptive names and swears to vet all site registrants diligently.) And, to be clear, a lot of so-called domainers have legitimate business motives: They buy, develop and “flip” domains the way you would any other asset. But even when domainers aren’t quite so upstanding, using their domains just to harass or troll, there’s not too much their victims can do. Kronenberger says that if a domain name contains a registered trademark, like Kleenex or Crock-Pot or “I’m Lovin It,” the trademark holder can file a lawsuit for infringement. But there are several variables you have to prove, and that process is expensive. Plus, since individual names are very rarely trademarked, litigation doesn’t help actual people. Not even famous ones. (Except, naturally, Donald Trump.) And thus domain trolling proliferates unchecked. The 69-year-old owner of Nets.com has used that domain to tease the basketball team. JebBushforPresident.com is owned by a pair of self-described “bears” who use the site for pro-LGBT messaging. Surprisingly few trolls have gotten in on the Obama game -- though you can sign up for a vanity inbox on obama.email. (Obama URLs that are still available, as of this writing: obama.cash, obama.zone, obama.reviews. Someone get that last one, the potential is huge.) Clearly the moral of the story here is that there’s nothing like a good offense; if you want to save yourself future pain and annoyance, better buy up your domain names before someone else. Alas, that’s getting more and more difficult as the 500+ new domains roll out. But Ted Cruz is running for president. He might wanna lock tedcruz.sucks down. • Dewey writes The Post’s The Intersect web channel covering digital and Internet culture.

     
  • App reviews: Meerkat, Crossy Road Mar 28, 2015 7:37 AM
    Meerkat Every year, the buzz at the technology and artistic confab known as South by Southwest seems to crown an unofficial app of the year. This year, that app is Meerkat — an app that lets you live-stream whatever you want over your Twitter account. The app is easy enough to navigate, and a breeze to set up. So if you want to share your spot at the concert or want to tune into someone else’s broadcast, you can do it with very little instruction. Obviously, if you’re at all uncomfortable with the idea of letting people watch you or what you’re doing, this app is not for you. It needs access to your camera, asks for access to your location and, well, streams what you’re doing publicly and in real time. But if you have an experience to share — or just want to try out the latest fad — then give it a shot. Free, for iOS. Crossy Road Why did the chicken cross the road? Because you tap-tap-tapped him across the highway. Crossy Road is a sort-of update to the old game Frogger. You’re put in the “shoes” of an animal or person who has to cross the road by dodging vehicles, jumping on logs and avoiding trains at all costs. And if you stay in one place for too long? Let’s just say the game doesn’t like it. As you play, you unlock more characters that take you quickly beyond the default chicken avatar. A black sheep, wizard and duck add their own flavor to otherwise identical game play. You can buy different characters, but that’s an aesthetic decision only. The real joy is in playing, and Crossy Road definitely has the mix of fast fun and addictive play that could tide you over for a few minutes or suck you in for an hour. Free, for iOS and Android.

     
  • Arlington Hts. police partner with maker of safety app Mar 25, 2015 4:46 PM
    The Arlington Heights Police Department is teaming with app maker LifeLine Response to bring police work into the mobile age by offering a way for residents and visitors to call for help just by taking their thumb off their phone. “If it gives us the opportunity to get more information out to the citizens and keep them safer," said police Sgt. Richard Boyle.

     
  • How to use social media to build business Mar 23, 2015 5:00 AM
    If you want to build sales, put your effort where customers hang out, an expert tells Small Business Columnist Jim Kendall.

     
  • Rise of artificial intelligence is changing attitudes on robot romance Mar 21, 2015 7:36 AM
    Convincing people to have a romantic relationship with a computer might be easier than it sounds. At this year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas, a chatbot on Tinder convinced a number of users that she was a cute 25-year-old woman eager to strike up a romantic relationship. Too bad “Ava” turned out to be just an Instagram account for a character in an upcoming film (“Ex Machina”) about the implications for romance in the era of artificial intelligence. In many ways, “Ava” was playing a simplified form of Alan Turing’s famous “imitation game” by trying to convince human conversational partners that it was human — or at least human enough to get Tinder users to watch a trailer for a movie. In one conversational exchange captured by AdWeek, Ava used a typical chatbot tactic — keeping a human off-balance by asking questions you wouldn’t expect from a computer (“Have you ever been in love?” and “What makes you human?”) — to convince male, techie-hipsters at SXSW that she was a real woman. We’ve already seen evidence that carrying on a relationship with a bot is easier than it sounds. Consider the Invisible Boyfriend (and Invisible Girlfriend) experience, which really started as a clever way to use technology to cover up a lack of a romantic significant other. It turns out the experience was so addictive that people started to fall for the Invisible Boyfriend bot — even when they knew the whole relationship was made up — and paid for — from the beginning. In an era when teens rely so much on text messages to launch, maintain and end relationships, it’s perhaps no surprise that a bot experience such as Invisible Boyfriend or Ava could take off. If you think about the typical teen romance carried out via text message these days, it’s essentially a chatbot experience powered by a really powerful computer — the human brain. The witty reply, the shared insider lingo between two lovers, the concerned text from a lover demanding a rapid reply — this could all be simulated by an artificially intelligent chatbot. No wonder AI thought leader Ray Kurzweil has suggested that a real-life human-AI romance might be possible in as little as 15 years. In his review of the 2013 Spike Jonze film “Her” (in which the character played by Joaquin Phoenix carries on a romantic relationship with a disembodied operating system called “Samantha”), Kurzweil said he expected similar types of advances by the year 2029: “Samantha herself I would place at 2029, when the leap to human-level AI would be reasonably believable.” Where things could really take off is when new technologies give computers the ability to interact with humans in radically new ways that go beyond just holding intelligent conversations. An AI-powered computer that could learn to analyze your facial expressions or look into your eyes and sense your moods could theoretically simulate the types of emotional responses and triggers that we typically associate with a human relationship. Discussing the central plot line of “Her,” Kurzweil says that your romantic partner might not even need to have a physical body, as long as there’s a “virtual visual presence.” So imagine a computer that could convince you that it was actually physically interacting with you. Kurzweil sees this happening via a type of virtual reality experience: “With emerging eye-mounted displays that project images onto the wearer’s retinas and also look out at the world, we will indeed soon be able to do exactly that. When we send nanobots into the brain — a circa-2030s scenario by my timeline — we will be able to do this with all of the senses, and even intercept other people’s emotional responses.” The next frontier, then, could be the creation of romantic experiences in the bedroom for humans using virtual reality devices such as the Oculus Rift. There have already been some attempts at adapting the world of romance for the virtual reality headset, and while the original experiences were largely considered to be overhyped, the elusive goal for some remains a type of highly customizable “Oculus Rift XXX” experience, in which you can choose the appearance of your partner as well as which activities you will pursue in a virtual bedroom. Imagine the types of bonds that could be formed when your Invisible Boyfriend suddenly becomes a visible, AI-powered Christian Grey in a virtual reality world where anything is possible. One thing is clear — technology is already changing the way humans think about relationships, whether it’s via something simple such as texting or something more complex, such as artificial intelligence or virtual reality. When so much of our lives are spent consuming digital 0’s and 1’s, is it any surprise that computers are starting to factor into those relationships in interesting — and some might say disturbing — new ways? In the future, the way to your romantic partner’s heart might not be flowers, chocolates or jewelry — it might be the ability to code a really cool romantic experience for his or her digital device. • Basulto is a futurist and blogger based in New York.

     
  • SXSW Interactive now part tech showcase, part lobbying forum Mar 21, 2015 7:32 AM
    AUSTIN, Texas — Every spring, thousands of entrepreneurs, innovators and investors and descend on this state capital for the annual South by Southwest technology convention. Over the past few years, SXSW Interactive has become a draw for federal policymakers, too, including prominent administration officials and members of Congress, many of them looking to build a reputation as a supporter — or even a member — of the tech community. The result is one of the few face-to-face collisions each year between Silicon Valley and Washington, in which hundreds of entrepreneurs and dozens of politicians find themselves in the same place at the same time. That presents a unique opportunity for organizations that represent the policy interests of entrepreneurs and innovators — and many are making every effort to capitalize, turning the event’s opening week into part technology showcase, part lobbying forum. “It’s clear from the interactions you see that this is becoming the place for that kind of communication,” Evan Engstrom, policy director at Engine Advocacy, a research and advocacy group based in San Francisco, said during an interview here. “It’s a perfect storm of having a bunch of innovators and entrepreneurs coming together in one place, as well as this concerted push from policymakers and elected officials to come down.” It’s that first part that’s most important, he said. While large technology firms have the resources required for more traditional lobbying efforts in Washington, small and new ventures must generally rely on strength in numbers to have their voices heard on Capitol Hill. Convening those companies is often difficult, as tech startups are being built in pockets in every corner of the country. With many flocking to Austin, groups like Engine can gather scores of them into one room — or, as is often the case at the festival, one bar — to both solicit support for their current lobbying battles and discover new fights they should consider taking up. Being able to lure Washington’s decision-makers to the meetings only sweetens the deal. “Once they’re here, it’s frankly not hard to get policymakers to come to out to our events and pay attention to startups, because they see it as a unique opportunity, too, to meet with some of the innovators they don’t normally get to see,” Engstrom said. It’s a relatively new component of South by Southwest, according to Amy Millman, who made her fifth straight trip to the festival this year. Millman runs Springboard Enterprises, a nonprofit advocacy group for women-led businesses based in Washington. She said “it’s really in the past two or three years” that the event has become a magnet for state and federal government officials. “It’s about time,” she added. “We go to a lot of these events, but I can’t think of any” that now bring together as many entrepreneurs and policymakers, Millman said. The only one that perhaps rivals it, Millman and Engstrom agreed, is the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This year, SXSW Interactive attracted Obama administration officials such as Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. The delegation from Capitol Hill included Reps. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Will Hurd, R-Texas, Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., as well as Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., the latter of whom made his fourth consecutive visit to the conference. “We have seen a change over time, in which tech has become front and center,” Moran said during a forum titled “Politics of Innovation: DC, Tech Working Together.” In part, that’s because there are pockets of tech startups now bubbling up in districts across the country, he said. It’s also the result of more lawmakers making trips to events like South by Southwest and the Consumer Electronics Show, he added. “It’s a conversation that wasn’t happening five years ago,” Moran said. Hurd echoed that same sentiment during an event the following day. “A number of my colleagues have come down this year, and many of them didn’t even know what South by Southwest was before,” he said. “What’s great is that now they’re interacting with entrepreneurs and starting to understand some of these issues.” There seems to be a strategy for bringing entrepreneurs at the events into the conversation, too. Often under the pretext of educational seminars, many forums follow a common script. The presenters — often from a mix of advocacy and trade groups, think tanks, technology firms and the public sector — start with a broad overview of a political issue, walk through anecdotes of how startups are affected, and almost inevitably, conclude with a call to action, with directions for those in the room who want to get in touch with their state or federal representatives. On Sunday, for instance, the festival featured a session titled “How Public Policy Protects Patents and Startups.” Hosted by TwinLogic Strategies, a lobbying shop in Washington, the panel featured Yahoo’s government affairs director as well as the senior counsel for the House Judiciary Committee in Congress, which is led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who has several times introduced legislation that would overhaul the patent system with more protections against so-called patent trolls that buy up intellectual property solely to use the legal process to extract payments from offenders. Naturally, the session largely centered around the importance of passing such legislation. Other issues that dominated the conversation at this year’s conference included net neutrality and cybersecurity measures, as entrepreneurs keep close tabs on the future on the Internet. More than one session focused on immigration reform proposals, as well, with tech companies large and small eager to bring in more highly skilled workers from overseas. Measures intended to increase access to capital and startup investments were another hot topic. “If any of you want to write to your senator, and say that you hope they support the bill, that would be helpful,” Barbara Boxer, who manages a pair of investment groups, said toward the end of a session on investment tax credits. She had just finished presenting research on the benefit of state programs that provide tax breaks to startup investors and was stumping for a proposal to do the same thing at the federal level. “One of the reasons we want to talk to you about this is not only to educate you about this, but to put out a call to action for entrepreneurs and startup investors,” said Boxer, who is based in Los Angeles. “Get up there, write a letter or make a call to your senator or your representatives in the House.” But that’s the tricky part, according to both Engstrom and Millman. How do you sustain momentum after the conference and encourage entrepreneurs to make their voices heard after they leave Austin? “It’s about making those contacts and connections down here and making sure startups return home knowing how to get engaged,” Engstrom said. Added Millman: “In Austin, the way I look at it, it’s about planting seeds.”

     
  • Sickweather app has a few bugs in the system Mar 21, 2015 7:31 AM
    The developers of Sickweather would have you turn to your phone for warnings about outbreaks of flu and other illnesses. Calling itself the “world’s first Doppler radar for sickness,” Sickweather offers you illness maps instead of weather maps. Depending on which option you select, you can see maps for grouped illnesses, such as gastrointestinal ailments (under which they list stomach virus and norovirus). Or, you can look at maps of individual illnesses, such as bronchitis, chicken pox or “man flu” (seriously).

     
  • Desktop computers use twice as much energy as laptops Mar 21, 2015 7:34 AM
    Last week, the California Energy Commission (CEC) released a set of draft standards that, if adopted, would considerably increase the energy efficiency of computers and accompanying monitors.

     
  • App reviews: Google Calendar, 1Password Mar 21, 2015 7:38 AM
    Google Calendar It took a little while, but Google has finally released a version of its Calendar application for iOS devices. For Android users, the app will look familiar — it takes its design cues from the latest Android system, with a simpler, color-coded design to help you keep all of your events straight. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here; you get Google’s solid but basic calendar features. The app works best if you use other Google services as well, with integration of Gmail and Google Maps. Calendar also supports iCloud, Yahoo and Exchange calendars. There are other, more robust calendar apps out there if you really want to make your digital planner work for you. But if you want something simple and familiar that gets the job done, you could definitely do worse. Free; new on iOS devices, available for Android devices. 1Password Remembering passwords is awful. That’s something nearly everyone can agree on, whether you’re a technophile or someone who barely uses the Internet. 1Password is one of many options to keep all those pesky passwords in one secure place without having to resort to reusing easy passwords that leave you vulnerable to hacking. With this mobile devices app, you can store passwords in a secure locker, which can be synced across devices through Dropbox and iCloud to access them as you browse. You can generate new passwords in the app — though it’s not the most convenient process. The app features its own browser, which makes it even easier to access your credentials. Overall, this is a useful app that can give you peace of mind. That said, many aspects of the service — particularly in its setup process — could be more intuitive. Free, for iOS and Android devices.

     
  • New liquid 3D printing technique inspired by Terminator 2 Mar 21, 2015 7:33 AM
    In an iconic scene in the movie “Terminator 2,” the robotic villain T-1000 rises fully formed from a puddle of metallic goo. The newest innovation in 3-D printing looks pretty similar, and that’s no mistake: Its creators were inspired by that very scene.

     
  • Can’t remember your password? Two new ways to log in Mar 20, 2015 5:27 PM
    Convenience and security. That’s what Yahoo is promising users who choose to receive a single-use password “on demand” — sent by text message to their mobile phone each time they want to sign into their Yahoo account. Once you opt into the program, there’s no more need to create or memorize a password for Yahoo’s email or other services.

     
  • U.S. wants to know chemicals used in fracking Mar 20, 2015 4:17 PM
    Two groups, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance, filed suit in federal court in Wyoming seeking to block the rule. The suit claims the rule would impose unfair burdens that will “complicate and frustrate oil and gas production on federal lands.”

     
  • More Dist. 220 students will get iPads next year Mar 18, 2015 8:54 PM
    More Barrington area students will get iPads when they go back to school in the fall, the District 220 school board agreed this week.

     
  • New Dreamliner rolls out; union in wings? Mar 17, 2015 7:13 PM
    The aircraft is 20 feet longer and carries more passengers than the standard 787 Dreamliner. It’s also the 250th Dreamliner delivered by the company.

     
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