Saturday, January 5, 2013

Obama's 'Autopen' Used To Sign Fiscal Cliff Bill From 4,800 Miles Away

On Wednesday evening President Obama signed Congress' new fiscal cliff bill into law while on vacation in Hawaii. Just how did the POTUS accomplish this? With the help of the handy "autopen."
According to Mashable, the technology works by copying a signer's pen strokes and storing them for when the user is not present. NPR notes that this is at least the third time Obama has used the device during his presidency. One earlier use of the device came in May 2011, when Obama signed a Patriot Act extension while attending the G8 Summit in France; another came in November 2011, when he signed an emergency spending bill while in Indonesia.
Obama's use of the autopen in instances where time or distance is an issue has not been without controversy, however. The Obama administration defers criticism of the practice by citing a 2005 decision by the Justice Department that gives the commander-in-chief the ability to direct a subordinate to affix his signature (via autopen) to a bill he has approved.
While other presidents and officials have used and do use a similar version of the autopen to duplicate signatures for letters and memorabilia -- even Thomas Jefferson is said to have used a primitive version of the machine to avoid copying the same letters over and over -- NPR notes that Obama may be the first to use the technology to sign a bill into law.
With the leader of the free world's signature equipped, the autopen is a rather powerful device. "I always heard the autopen was the second-most guarded thing in the White House after the president," said Jack Shock, Bill Clinton's director of presidential letters and messages, according to the Associated Press.

Windows Phone loses access to Google Maps

On Friday, some WIndows Phone 8 users discovered that you can no longer access the Google Maps website via devices running Windows Phone 7 or 8. While on the surface it seems like Google is deliberately crippling its own services on a competing mobile operating system, there's much more to the story than meets the eye.
The mobile version of Google Maps never officially supported Windows Phone, because the version of IE that comes with it doesn't have the WebKit support that Maps needs to work properly. That doesn't mean that Google isn't intentionally blocking Maps on phones that run Microsoft's OS, but it's more likely that the company fixed a bug that allowed these unsupported devices access in the first place.
Since Google doesn't seem too keen on developing apps for Windows Phone—the company has a search app that hasn't been updated in over a year—and with the search giant reportedly preventing Microsoft from building a proper YouTube app, it's unlikely that this development will make Google more popular with either Microsoft or the Windows Phone users out there who use its services.

How Almost Anyone Can Take You Off Facebook (And Lock You Out)

Getting your buddy's Facebook account turned into a “Memorial” state is surprisingly easy — and locks them out of Facebook. Warning: this will seriously mess up someone's account.
Facebook has offered "memorialization" for accounts of deceased people for a while, but it seems that the bar has been lowered for how they verify the person in question is actually expired. Ideally, how it works is a friend or relative of a deceased person fills out a form from the Facebook Help section that gives the name, email, and account name of the deceased person. It also asks if you're a friend, immediate family member, or other.
Lastly, it asks for proof that your friend is dead, but it will accept a link to an online obituary as sufficient proof. If your friend has a common enough name, just Google their name + "obituary" and you'll probably find a match.
Once memorialized, your buddy will be locked out of his or her account. R.I.P.!
(WARNING: Don't do this. It's at the very least a pain in the ass for your friends.)
Update: Why is it so easy to fake a friend's death? A Facebook spokeperson tells Buzzfeed, "we try to take all necessary precautions when processing user requests and provide an appeals process for any possible mistake we may make." It doesn't explain why there's no email confirmation or why an obituary for someone 50 years older than the alleged deceased was accepted as valid proof of his death.

1. To kill BuzzFeed's John Herrman, I just filled out the memorial request form:

I claimed to be an immediate family member of FWD editor John Herrman to make it seem more real (there's no verification I'm related).
1. To kill BuzzFeed's John Herrman, I just filled out the memorial request form:

2. For the "proof of death", I found an obituary for a guy with a similar name (not even spelled the same!) who was 74

The details of this obituary don't match up at all - this guy is way older, and lives in Nebraska instead of New York.
Even worse, the names aren't even spelled the same: he's "Herrmann" (double R, double N) whereas the John I'm killing is "Herrman" (double R, single N)
2. For the "proof of death", I found an obituary for a guy with a similar name (not even spelled the same!) who was 74

When the "dead" person tries to login to their account, this happens:

When the "dead" person tries to login to their account, this happens:

Getting the account back requires filling out a special form. It's not clear how long this takes. It's not instant:

Getting the account back requires filling out a special form. It's not clear how long this takes. It's not instant:

And when John filled it out, he got a form letter. The wrong one:

And when John filled it out, he got a form letter. The wrong one:
In other words, you can take someone offline by filling out a simple form, claiming to be family, and linking to an obit. Pretty bad!

Rusty Foster, who tipped us off on this issue, says he hasn't been able to get his account back for days:

@katienotopoulos @jwherrman So far 2 1/2 days, three or four reports, nothing even resembling a human response.
Update: About an hour after filling out the form, John's account was reactivated. This is the email Facebook sent:
"It looks like your account was suspended by mistake. I'm so sorry for the inconvenience. You should now be able to log in. If you have any issues getting back into your account, please let me know."

Friday, January 4, 2013

Facebook Starts Sending Out Notices for Sponsored Stories Settlement

If you receive a message purporting to be from Facebook with the subject "LEGAL NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF CLASS ACTION" -- don't worry, it's legitimate.
Facebook is sending proposed settlement notices to members of a class-action lawsuit against the company's use of Sponsored Stories. Facebook's offer of $20 million to settle the case was granted preliminary approval by the courts in December.
An email detailing the reason behind the lawsuit as well as the terms of the settlement was sent to users it believes are class members of the lawsuit, "according to available records."
The lawsuit was initially filed on behalf of Facebook users objecting to the use of their names and pictures in Sponsored Stories, ads which turn a user's Likes into ads appearing in friends' news feeds. The lawsuit argues the ads are a violation of privacy, as they turn users into spokespeople and endorsers without their direct approval.
The terms of the settlement state that users who file a claim can receive up to $10 from Facebook.
According to the document:
The amount, if any, paid to each claimant depends upon the number of claims made and other factors detailed in the Settlement. No one knows in advance how much each claimant will receive, or whether any money will be paid directly to claimants. If the number of claims made renders it economically infeasible to pay money to persons who make a timely and valid claim, payment will be made to the not-for-profit organizations identified on the Settlement website
Class members have until May 2, 2013, to submit a claim, exclude themselves from the settlement (in order to file an individual lawsuit over the legal claims), or tell the court why they object to the settlement. A Fairness Hearing over the matter will be held on June 28, 2013.
For users that do not submit a claim, they will not receive payment at all, but may be eligible for the non-monetary benefits of the settlement.

Facebook launches voice in iOS and Android Messenger apps, tests VoIP calling in Canada

Facebook is continuing to fine-tune and adapt its Messenger mobile apps (iOS/Android), today pushing live updates which include a potentially disruptive feature: voice messages.
The iOS and Android Messenger apps (which will be available later today) have been outfitted with a new option alongside the photo and camera buttons, offering a ‘Record’ toggle that can be pushed and held to record voice messages.
If you don’t like what you’ve recorded, slide it off to cancel the message or let go to send it.
While the voice messaging feature provides a new way of interacting with friends, Facebook has also said it will also begin the beta testing of a new VoIP calling feature within its iOS Messenger app, allowing users to establish a peer-to-peer connection and make calls without making a dent in their call allowance (although it will use existing data plans).
The only drawback is that voice calls (messages are available to all) will be available to Canadian users of the iOS Messenger app at launch.
To use the service, Canadian users will be able to log into their Messenger app, open a conversation with the person they want to call, hit the ‘i’ button in the top-right corner and selecting ‘Free Call.’ To send and receive calls, users will need to have the latest version of the app that is available today.
In recent months, Facebook has doubled-down on its messaging features, dropping requirements for users of its Android Messenger app to log in with a Facebook account. Allowing users to sign in with just their name and phone number made it a more attractive option to mobile owners who don’t want to use Facebook’s social networking features but need a reliable messaging service.
Audio 1 520x921 Facebook launches voice in iOS and Android Messenger apps, tests VoIP calling in Canada
Soon after that, it launched Facebok Poke, a direct attempt at leveraging away users of the popular iOS app Snapchat, offering disposable messages and the opportunity to send photos and videos that are automatically destroyed after a user-specified amount of time.
Facebook Messenger will now serve as a call and voicemail system that potentially reaches 1 billion users. It doesn’t matter if it’s not all that innovative, the service will be extremely useful to many millions of users around the world — that’s if Facebook’s tests are successful and it is opened to users in more markets.
And the possibilities seem interesting, to say the least. The ability to update the service with premium services could mean additional revenue. Think Skype’s internet phone numbers, call forwarding and other ‘upgrades’. This could be a nice additional stream of revenue for the service if it proves successful.,%20tests%20VoIP%20calling%20in%20Canada&utm_medium=copy-paste-link&utm_campaign=social%20media

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Some Samsung Galaxy S III owners report their devices are suddenly dying, likely a hardware issue

Some Samsung Galaxy S III owners are reporting their devices are suddenly being bricked. The phone simply won’t turn on again after it is charged overnight, or after the screen is turned off.
Users are reporting that the mainboards are the root of the problem and that the flash memory is becoming corrupted and failing, though the devices do seem to last somewhere between 150 and 200 days before dying. According to reports, Samsung is replacing them under warranty whether or not people have rooted the devices or installed non-standard firmware, but the company is allegedly using the same revision for the mainboards, suggesting the problem may simply come back in a few months again.
We first saw the issue on Reddit, where a thread has garnered over 350 points and more than 150 comments. The submission links to an XDA Developers discussion started last month that has 64 pages at the time of writing and 635 comments.
Samsung hasn’t officially acknowledged the issue, but users who have sent their devices in to repair centres say they have been told by multiple employees that the issue appears to be happening to many people as of late. That being said, it’s difficult to gauge how widespread the issue is, and the South Korean company likely won’t say

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

iPhone 5S to Be Available in Multiple Colors and Sizes?

The next iPhone could be a whole lot more colorful. Brian White, an analyst at Topeka Capital Markets, claims that the next iPhone will be available in additional colors and more screen sizes than the iPhone 5.
To get an idea of what White's talking about, we offer you the graphic above which shows the latest iPod Touch in its various colors. White writes that in addition to the currently offered black and white models, the new iPhone will be available in blue, yellow, pink and silver, as the iPod Touch is now.
According to MacRumors, White says like the iPhone 4's successor was named the iPhone 4S, this new iPhone will be "likely called the iPhone 5S." In his note to investors released Wednesday, he says that phone could be available in the middle of this year, and in his most controversial prediction, he believes the new iPhone will be available in multiple screen sizes:
"Although Apple offers a 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5 and a 3.5-inch screen on the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4, the Company has never offered multiple screen sizes for a single model. We believe this is about to change with the next iPhone offering different screen sizes that we believe will allow Apple to better bifurcate the market and expand its reach. This eventually opens up the possibility for a lower-priced iPhone (i.e., iPhone mini) with a smaller screen size that could allow Apple to further penetrate markets such as China and open up opportunities in India. At the same time, Apple could unveil a larger screen size compared to the recently updated 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5."
White is not the first analyst who has suggested multiple colors and various screen sizes for the iPhone 5S. In early December, Jefferies analyst Peter Misek wrote that a possible update for the next iPhone could come in "six to eight colors." He also called it iPhone 5S. Misek brings a credible track record as far as the iPhone's naming is concerned, reporting that the iPhone 4's successor would be called the iPhone 4S five months before it was released.
Keep in mind that most of these analysts are not always correct. Let us know in the comments if you think the iPhone will soon be available in more screen sizes and colors.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New MTA App Tells Commuters When Their Train Will Arrive


NEW YORK — A new app aims to make fewer straphangers feel stranded by train delays.
MTA Subway Time — which launched as a beta version for iPhones, iPads and the iPod touch on Friday — gives riders on seven subway lines real-time information about train arrivals, according to agency officials. A desktop version is available on the MTA website.