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    September 25, 2014
    Drones Make It To Hollywood

    One of the coolest shots in any movie is a helicopter shot.  You put a camera on a helicopter, and you go flying around, or you chase down a fleeing car, or you just… well, do anything, really, provided it’s from the air.  However, every time you have to go up in a helicopter, there’s an element of danger.  Lots of things can go wrong, and people have died in helicopter crashes in making movies since helicopters became a part of the film language.  But there’s a better solution, and it’s unmanned.  Hollywood aerial photography companies will now be allowed to use drones to capture all those cool visuals movies depend on.

    “Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in broadening commercial UAS use while ensuring we maintain our world-class safety record in all forms of flight.  These companies are blazing a trail that others are already following, offering the promise of new advances in agriculture and utility safety and maintenance,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

    Really, it’s probably the safest of all options, both for the FAA and for the people making films.  Nobody has to get up and fly around in a helicopter, dodging and weaving through power lines, when a comparatively tiny drone lugging a camera around can do the same job much safer.  I doubt any drones will be going high enough to cause problems with existing flight plans (also unlike a helicopter), so this seems like a win all the way around.

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    September 15, 2014
    Chinese City’s Cell Phone Walker Lane

    It seems that no matter where you go, you can’t get people off their cell phones.  From London to Hong Kong, people have their nose in their phone and never pay attention to where they’re actually going.  Well one Chinese city has decided to raise a little awareness of that issue.  Chongqing, China has a cell-phone walking lane, separating walkers from talkers.  Apparently, the city of 28 million people in southwest China has a real problem with folks not paying attention.

    “There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cell phone may cause unnecessary collisions here,” said Nong Cheng, a spokeswoman for the district’s property manager.

    Of course, the effort isn’t a real law, just a satirical way to create a little situational awareness, as well as get some attention for the city.  Here’s hoping all the cell phone photos will convince some of those users to pay more attention to the world around them and less attention to their Facebook and Twitter and Instagram accounts while walking around.  And if not, at least they’ll be a lot of funny pictures added to those things.

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    September 10, 2014
    Internet Slowdown Day

    If your connection seems a little slow today, it’s not you and it’s not your Internet provider, it’s the sites themselves.  This morning, hundreds of websites displayed animations showing just how slow the online experience could be if America’s ISPs get their way.  The protest is dubbed Internet Slowdown Day, and it pits Google, Facebook, and other huge online companies against the Internet Service Providers who run the Internet into homes around the country.  Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T, and others are trying to separate the Internet into paying ‘first priority’ websites and secondary websites, and the FCC is listening to their arguments as we speak.  Basically, your Internet provider is trying to pay the government to earn the right to charge companies to be put into an online “fast lane” while those that won’t, or can’t, get pushed to the side.

    “The ISPs have invested tens of millions of dollars in their effort to undermine Net Neutrality,” said a press release from Demand Progress executive director David Segal, “but we still have a chance of defeating them — because the overwhelming majority of Americans stand with the Open Internet. September 10th represents a chance for us to make that fact impossible to ignore.”

    Comcast has already forced Netflix to pay them what amounts to a bribe to allow Netflix’s customers to continue to receive service as fast as they’re paying for, and now they’re looking to expand that reach.  Turns out ISPs are some of the highest-paying lobbyist groups in Washington, which means they’ll get to buy a lot of Congressional support (and the head of the FCC is a former cable company lobbyist, and cable companies are the new ISPs).  Turns out it’s not extortion if you can pay off enough people to get your way!

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    September 10, 2014
    Wordless Wednesday: The iPhone Event

    Via: Paul T. Jarman on Twitter

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    August 19, 2014
    Verizon Tops Speed And Reliability Measures Yet Again

    Once again, Verizon is the king of cell service providers.  According to RootMetrics, Verizon bested the competition in all categories except text messages, where it came in second to AT&T.  However, the gap between Verizon and AT&T is very narrow indeed, so it’s looking like a real war of attrition between the two top providers, with everyone else fighting for third place.  Speed, performance, call performance, data performance, reliability… everything but texting was Verizon’s category to win, with AT&T nipping at their heels the entire way.

    Interestingly, T-Mobile is making a big push as well, improving its coverage in several big cities and states and making big strides in ratings from where it once lingered at the bottom of all the rankings.  Of course, performance in a few locations isn’t performance everywhere, and if you’re going to be doing any kind of traveling, Verizon is probably still your choice to get coverage in areas in the hinterlands, as well as a performance leader in big cities and most states.  Any improvement is a good sign, and it’s nice to see that T-Mobile is teaming its renewed push for customers with a renewed interest in improving service.

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    August 15, 2014
    Microsoft: Give IE Another Shot

    Would you ever go back to Internet Explorer after having left the browser monolith for one of the new kids on the block?  I’m not sure I would (though I don’t have any terrible stories to report about using IE), but Microsoft is trying an unusual tactic to boost IE’s browser share back to the heights it once enjoyed in the 1990′s:  asking politely.  In a thread on Reddit, Microsoft employees asked users to give IE another shot.

    “Often times the decision to not use Internet Explorer is largely based on experiences from a decade ago, and a much different IE,” argued Microsoft’s Jonathan Sampson during a Reddit AMA.  ”That being said, we know it’s our job to change the public perception, and to win the hearts of users everywhere.  Each [person who] opens IE, and downloads another browser, is another person we’ll be working even harder tomorrow to win back.”

    I’ve used IE at work here and there, and I have to admit that after the clean interface of Google Chrome, it’s really hard to go back to IE (though admittedly I may not be using the latest version of IE given how slow things to move in the real world when you’re dealing with tens of thousands of computers spread across hundreds of locations).  Still, it hasn’t been all bad.  It seems functional enough and I don’t have any major complaints that don’t stem from it not being the Google Chrome I’m used to.

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    August 8, 2014
    Russia: Show ID To Use Wi-Fi

    The Russian government isn’t exactly the most friendly organization when it comes to embracing democracy.  After all, this is a country that basically has invaded another country using proxy fighters, so they’re not big on respecting, well… any sorts of rules that don’t benefit them.  It’s very hard on the people of Ukraine, but the people of Russia are suffering under the yoke of their government as well.  Censorship is increasing, and public protest is getting bottled up, and even free public Internet isn’t so free.  Russia now requires public Wi-Fi users to show ID to log in.

    Not only does the law change how people use Wi-Fi, it also changes how website operators will do business.  If a website is read by more than 3000 people, the operator must publish under his or her real name.  If the government asks, then that website operator must register with the government to continue publishing.  Talk about a way to chill public protest.

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    August 7, 2014
    Microsoft To Open Windows Store

    The Apple Store experiment has been a huge success for Apple.  It’s given them a great place to push their products, an extra layer of coolness, the excuse to sell tech support to folks whose products don’t really need a lot of tech support, and it’s been kind of a valuable piece of public relations that Microsoft has never really been able to match.  Sure, Microsoft puts up the occasional pop-up shop, but that’s not like having a giant glass cube in the middle of some of the most expensive real-estate in the world.  Microsoft probably can’t do that, but they can land a pretty awesome address for their first Windows Store.  Microsoft is opening a Windows Store in midtown Manhattan, right on Fifth Avenue.

    The building is an 8700-square-foot, two-story building that once housed a Fendi store, but will now sell Windows-based devices to the eager public, as well as being a great public relations story for Microsoft.  Expect a lot of Surface tablets, Nokia-based Windows Phones, and Xbox Ones on the shelves.  After all, Manhattan real-estate isn’t cheap, and Microsoft’s willing to take a loss, but only for so long.

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    August 6, 2014
    Wordless Wednesday: Let’s Go Viral

    Via Cheezburger.

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    July 19, 2014
    Facebook Rolls Out App For Celebrities

    If you’re a famous person, you have a lot of demands on your time, but there is no demand so great as the demand to interact with the fans.  Thanks to social media, a good celebrity is one who talks to his or her fans, and that’s a lot of pressure.  Not on the celebrities, but on the social media services.  Facebook has been pushed to its limits by Twitter, which offers instant ability to interact with fans.  To respond, Facebook has launched Facebook Mentions, a special celebs-only iPhone app for the famous to interact with us poors.

    “With so many people connected to public figures, it’s really hard to manage those interactions,” said Facebook product manager Allison Swope.  ”We realized we could create a way to make that easier.”

    Mentions is a great help to celebrities, as it helps them keep track of fan trends, keep up (and follow) other famous people and media influencers, and even host a live Q&A session from their iPhone directly.  According to the celebrities involved, it has made interacting with fans a lot easier, and Facebook says that it has improved celebrity use by 50 percent, though it’s still a very new service.  Facebook expects to roll it out internationally in the coming months; for now, the service is US-only.

    “My fans are so important to me,” said singer Austin Mahone.  ”They’re the reason why I make music, and I love sharing my life with them.  (Facebook) Mentions has made it even easier to keep my fans updated on what’s going on in my world, and to respond directly to their posts.”

    Feel free to check out Facebook Mentions, if you’re famous.

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