Friday, September 13, 2013

Facebook Conversations Will Help Media Track Trends

Facebook is once again following in Twitter’s footsteps, this time with the announcement of new tools that allow publishers to display trending conversations and topics from the social network. The company launched two new APIs that will allow select media partners to track public posts, trending topics, and hashtags on Facebook and display them on websites and news broadcasts. Its initial media partners include Buzzfeed, CNN, NBC’s Today Show, BSkyB, Slate and Mass Relevance; Facebook said it will make the tools available to additional media and marketing partners in coming weeks.

Leaks Confirm Fingerprint Scanner On iPhone 5S Ahead Of Apple's Announcement

Apple’s big day is finally here. But when the new iPhone 5S is announced later today, there may not be many surprises. Multiple reports over the last 24 hours have confirmed that the iPhone 5S will have a fingerprint scanner built into the classic “Home” button on Apple’s flagship smartphone. The Wall Street Journal reports that the more expensive of the two iPhones Apple is expected to announce today (the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C are the presumed names) will have a fingerprint scanner. A leaked user’s manual to French website also shows the home button doubling as a “Touch ID” sensor. A fingerprint sensor has been expected as part of the iPhone 5S for most of the summer after documentation in Apple’s new iOS 7 beta operating system showed support for biometric authentication. Other new features expected in the iPhone 5S are a dual flash for an upgraded camera, a better computer processor and a version with gold (or gold colored) casing. A bigger and longer last battery could also be a distinct possibility. The screen size or the overall size of the iPhone 5S is not expected to be any bigger, staying at the 4-inches form factor that was introduced in last year’s iPhone 5S. A fingerprint scanner could give the new iPhone a unique feature that most other competitor’s smartphones do not employ. The scanner would be use to authenticate a user instead of using a password to unlock the device. While a fingerprint scanner may not seem like that much of a big deal, the possibilities for such a feature are robust. If a smartphone can know with near 100% certainty that the owner of the device is the person using it (and not a thief or someone that randomly found the smartphone) then it can be used to authenticate a person’s identity for payments (online such as when buying apps from Apple App Store or offline in physical retail stores), gain access to buildings or connect to a secure enterprise network. A fingerprint scanner would also be theoretically easier to use than passwords to unlock the iPhone. What are you looking for in the iPhone 5S? Let us know what you think in the comments and join our live blog kicking shortly before Apple’s announcement starting at 10 a.m. PDT/1 p.m. EST.

Sony PS Vita TV: An Ouya Crossbred With A Chromecast

Sony, readying to dish out its first new major gaming console in eight years, just announced a doozy of a device: the PlayStation Vita TV. Don't let its uninspired name and small stature fool you—the PS-branded gizmo could make big waves. The PS Vita TV Chats Up Your Living Room The teensy device, measuring 2.56 by 3.94 inches—about the size of a deck of cards—has considerable potential. By acting as a conduit between a television and a PS Vita, the PS Vita TV means that Vita owners can play small screen games up on a big TV screen. And in true set-top box style, the PS Vita TV also enables streaming services like Hulu, just like a Chromecast or a Roku. The PS Vita TV can also pair with a PlayStation 4 to stream gameplay to a different television if the screen the PS4 is hooked up to is otherwise occupied—a feature that could end some living room cold wars. It's a chatty little thing, that's for sure.
With no screen to speak of, the PS Vita TV acts as a conduit to other PlayStation devices. The device boasts Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and an Ethernet, USB, and HDMI out port. Your eyes can get a break from the scrunch of a PS Vita's 960x544 screen size with 720p and 1080i support for the larger gaming screen in your life, though that will likely come at the cost of some degree of quality. An Exclusive Club ... For Now The bad news? Sony made no mention of a North American release for the PS Vita TV, though it'd be hard to imagine that the tiny set-top box won't eventually find its way to Western shores, pending content deals with streaming juggernauts like Hulu and Netflix. The PS Vita TV is priced at 9,954 yen in Japan (roughly $100), where it's set to launch on November 14—one day before the U.S. launch of the PlayStation 4. Sony also revealed a lighter version of its PS Vita handheld console, which will come in six bright colors and launch in Japan on October 10. The company also announced that the PlayStation 4 won't be launching on its home turf until February 22, 2014—a full three months after the console's big U.S. debut. It's possible that Sony may have staggered the release of the PS4 and PS Vita TV to avoid cannibalizing (or just straight up confusing) its own market. Sony PlayStation Vita Vs. Nintendo's Little Goliath Sony's PS Vita is the hardware adversary of the Nintendo DS handheld console family. But in spite of its superior hardware and graphics, the device never caught on like the Nintendo DS, which vies against the PlayStation 2 for the title of the all-time top-selling gaming console. The PS Vita's dearth of good games is often to blame for the handheld's lackluster sales. Competing with the Mario franchise ain't easy. Still, the PS Vita TV is a compelling step in the right direction, and a stepping stone that gives gamers more flexibility to play how they want, where they want. In the meantime, we just have to hope that the little white set-top multitool makes the long swim to U.S. shores.

PostgreSQL Hits 9.3, New Levels Of Popularity With The Cool Kids

There's something about PostgreSQL. Over the past year or so, the once-somewhat-dull-open-source database has seen a renaissance of sorts. Long the ugly stepchild to MySQL, the cool kids now increasingly prefer PostgreSQL to MySQL. And with a major new release—PostgreSQL 9.3—a great but somewhat ignored database just got even better, and almost certain to be less ignored. Why? PostgreSQL's Steady Rise PostgreSQL has been around forever. That is, since 1986. Database king Michael Stonebreaker first started working on PostgreSQL (then Postgres) in 1986, originally intended to be a superior successor to Stonebreaker's Ingres database. But while PostgreSQL has always had its fans, it never really caught on as a dominant industry database. That honor goes to MySQL, which started in 1995 and has grown to become the world's most popular database. But something is brewing in PostgreSQL Land. While general interest (as measured by Google searches) seems to be waning for PostgreSQL, with the kingmaking developer crowd, there is evidence from other sources that PostgreSQL is making new in-roads. Since early 2012, developers have been talking about it much more, as evidenced by Hacker News mentions: More importantly, PostgreSQL now translates into an increasing number of jobs. It's nice to have people talk about technology. The real key is when they start to pay for it with headcount. In terms of absolute jobs, PostgreSQL still trails MySQL by a wide margin: But if we look at relative job growth, it's clear that there's something happening in the PostgreSQL community: The question is why? Again, PostgreSQL has long been a great database with mature functionality. But that hasn't made it popular. Why is this database suddenly cool? PostgreSQL Gets Its Cool On Ironically, PostgreSQL's rising relevance probably isn't due to its underlying technology. After all, PostgreSQL has always been a great, feature-rich database that offers solid performance. And its proponents, like StreetCred Software's Nick Selby, haven't needed any help recognizing this: @mjasay because it is simple, powerful, wicked fast, elegant and super awesome at doing natively things other DBs don't? — Nick Selby (@nselby) September 10, 2013 With version 9.3, PostgreSQL gets lateral joins, improvements to its JSON support and more. It's a great database that just got even better. But technology isn't really the driving force for its renewed popularity. Nor is it PostgreSQL's easy licensing terms. While this definitely plays a part, as open-source developer Max Rydahl Anderson posits—developers like to have maximum flexibility with minimal imposed restrictions from a license—PostgreSQL has long enjoyed this licensing freedom. And for whatever reason, this feature never earned it much love against MySQL's copyleft-oriented GPL license. It's The Community, Stupid One thing has changed over the past few years, and in a big way. MySQL got a change in management. Justin Cormack suggests that while PostgreSQL "was always quieter as [there is] no big vendor just community," and hence it "takes longer to get word out." While that lack of a strong vendor may have hurt PostgreSQL historically, it may well be one of the key factors promoting it today. In other words, one reason for PostgreSQL's new popularity is that it isn't MySQL. That used to be a badge of shame, but since Oracle took over MySQL, open-source developers have been seeking alternatives. While not necessarily fair—Oracle has been investing heavily in MySQL's development—it's nevertheless a reality. Analysts agree. 451 Research analyst Matt Aslett suggests its popularity stems from "developer-friendly support (hstore, JSON) + solid, mature code base (inc replication) + licensing + (not) Oracle." Redmonk analyst James Governor echoes this sentiment, caling out the fact that "it's rock solid, increasingly developer friendly (see JSON), does geo very well, and isn't owned by Oracle." Or as Ovum analyst Tony Baer indicates, a big part of PostgreSQL's new cool factor is "Probably because MySQL became 'less cool'." This isn't to deprecate all of the great things that PostgreSQL has done. Version 9.3 looks awesome. The PostgreSQL community is active. It has all the ingredients for success. But sometimes you need a bit of luck, and in PostgreSQL's case that may well be the perception that MySQL is losing its open-source bona fides under Oracle. It may or may not be true, but it's certainly helping to feed PostgreSQL's increased popularity. Not that they'll complain.

Square To Host Coding Camp for Girls

Square's pocketable plastic accessory changed the game for mobile payments, and now the company is hoping to make the same waves in the development of women in engineering. For the second year in a row, the San Francisco-based startup is hosting a ladies-only, all-expenses paid Code Camp at Square to encourage more women to pursue opportunities in engineering and technology. But this time the program, which takes place at Square HQ in San Francisco, will reach more girls. Square is splitting its engineering workshops into a High School Code Camp and a College Code Camp. The High School Code Camp will span eight months, and is designed for young women based in San Francisco who are preparing for the AP Computer Science exam. During the camp, the participants will attend lectures, programming sessions, and mobile development workshops with Square engineers. Only eight female high school students will be selected for the program, so submit your essay by September 27.
College students will be invited for a four-day immersion that includes learning new coding languages, leadership building activities, and taking a tour around the city. Square is extending the College Code Camp program to 20 future leading ladies in computer science this year (last October, Square only accepted 15). In Women 2.0, Monica Starr, a Wellesley College junior who participated last year, said that Tech Trek, which are two and a half hour intensives in different areas of engineering, made her a "stronger developer." Brush up your resume and submit an essay explaining why you'd like to be a part of the program online at by October 25. Don't know how to code yet? Join your sisters in software by considering these all-female coding camps.

How Wi-Fi Direct Works As A Gateway To The Internet Of Things

Wi-Fi Direct is an emerging wireless standard that allows you to create a create a connection between any two devices without going through a wireless router. Want to create a Wi-Fi hotspot, connect your computer or smartphone to your printer or stream movies from your tablet to your television? There is a good chance that Wi-Fi Direct is doing the heavy lifting. Seems simple, right? Well, the basic concept is not all that complex. Wi-Fi Direct has been commercially viable since about 2010. The standard is now starting to mature and be adopted by gadgets everywhere, like new smartphones, digital accessories like set-top television boxes (or “smart” TVs) and automobile vehicle systems. Wi-Fi Direct is creating new capabilities to share media, such as how Apple uses AirDrop to transfer pictures, documents, music and video from one user to another on its Mac OS X computers and iPhone/iPads running the new iOS 7. Smartphones have been able to support Wi-Fi Direct for a while now. The capabilities are starting to expand as operating systems like Android 4.3, iOS 7 and Windows Phone 8 begin to grow and realize that there is a whole world of devices out there that can be controlled through a smartphone or tablet. As the technology, security and compatibility of Wi-Fi Direct has matured, companies are starting to come up with more advanced uses of the standard. This is where it starts to get interesting. How Wi-Fi Direct Works Imagine that you are in your house or apartment. In this day and age, there is a pretty good chance that you have a Wi-Fi router that acts as your de facto home network. It is the hub of all things connected in your home. The router is the hub, the trunk of the tree with many branches. Those branches can’t really interact with each other except through by going back through the router.
That router hub is essentially the gateway to connectivity, called a wireless access point (WAP). What Wi-Fi Direct does is cut out the trunk of the network. Instead of going back to the hub, two devices using Wi-Fi Direct are given limited wireless access points. The setup for Wireless Direct is much simpler than adding a device to a traditional Wi-Fi network, often taking only the tap of a button or entering a personal identification number or code that is entered once. In this way, Wi-Fi Direct works much like Bluetooth, just with a longer range and more stability. For instance, if I want to hook my PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone to a Wi-Fi Direct-enabled printer, I just have to click a button once the printer, tell it to find a device (my PC, for instance) and tell it to connect. On the computer, a dialog box will pop up in the printer application and I can enable the connection. Wi-Fi Direct does this by creating a connection between two devices using a protocol called Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). The Wi-Fi Protected Setup standard is what makes connecting the devices much simpler than adding devices to a traditional wireless access point. WPS was originally created for users to easily set up security for their Wi-Fi networks without being wireless security wizards. Additional protocols have been created to make Wi-Fi Direct more useful such as Universal Plug And Play, Zero Configuration Networking and Devices Profile for Web Services.
What Wi-Fi Direct does is use software within those devices that can perform a variety of functions both simple and complex (a wireless mouse being simple, a smartphone that can share its hotspot, share streaming media and files being complex). This is done through a concept called “software access points” (Soft AP). The Soft AP makes it possible for a device to act both as the both the access point that the Wi-Fi comes from and the client that uses it. How Wi-Fi Direct Is Changing Connected Devices The simplest conceptual uses of Wi-Fi Direct are computer accessories. Devices like printers and a wireless computer mouse can employ Wi-Fi Direct as a straight connection from the computer, as opposed to using Bluetooth (which Apple uses for its wireless keyboards and Magic Mouse). The Internet of Things, where everything and anything can have the capability of connecting to the Internet, will be a boon for Wi-Fi Direct. If an object has Wi-Fi capabilities, it could also have Wi-Fi Direct, which could allow you to control it with your smartphone in the near future. One day you may walk into your connected home, turn on the lights and change the temperature right from your phone, because all your home accessories can connect right to your phone through Wi-Fi Direct. Apple’s forthcoming AirDrop in its iOS 7 mobile operating system will employ Wi-Fi Direct to be able to share files between two devices anywhere. Google’s Android operating system has had Wi-Fi Direct support since version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and has enabled various functions that users may be familiar with from Samsung Galaxy smartphone commercials (such as sharing pictures with your friends or the gimmicky All Share feature). What makes Wi-Fi Direct so compelling is the ability to create a virtual network with no central hub, all controlled through your smartphone. For instance, in your home, you could print straight from your smartphone by connecting it to your printer. Or, stream a YouTube video to your smart TV from your smartphone or control your thermostat. At the office, Wi-Fi Direct could enable two employees to share information peer-to-peer without using email or “bumping” phones (which uses a different wireless connection protocol called Near Field Communications). In essence… connect everything, anywhere and everywhere. No hubs, no trunks or centralized repository of data and connectivity.

Microsoft Donates Office 365 To Charitable Nonprofits

Microsoft, which has long been a contributor to various charities and nonprofits over the years, has announced the formation of a new program that would give participating nonprofits something they could actually use: licenses for Office 365. The new effort, Office 365 for Nonprofits is part of Microsoft's broader Technology for Good program, and will deliver eligible organizations unlimited licenses of Office 365 Enterprise E1 for Nonprofits. The program is only for organizations that have recognized charitable status in the 41 nations in which the program has been initially rolled out. So it doesn't include, for instance, nonprofits like schools or universities; trade associations; fundraising events or political organizations. Though the number of users who can participate in this program is unlimited, it should be noted that the E1 plan is the cloud-only version of Office 365. If participating organizations want to upgrade to the Office 365 Enterprise E3 for Nonprofits plan, which includes additional features as well as desktop versions of Office 365 software, it will cost $4.50 per user/month. And, of course, Microsoft will be classifying this software as a donation to the organizations involved in the program, which gets them a nice tax break in the various countries where the program is launching. Still, while this may seem like yet-another cynical move by a big corporation to make points for charitable giving, the fact is that Microsoft's donation to nonprofits is actually providing a lot good. The cloud version of Office 365 has a lot of functionality, and nonprofits are still reeling from the global economic downturn and slow recovery. In that context, free productivity software really hits the spot, and taken as a whole, this is a pretty nice program for nonprofits.