The new version of Android will include a new keyboard feature that allows for swipey-style typing, much like Swype, and the upcoming Flow for SwiftKey.
Just like your laptop—and Microsoft Surface—Android 4.2 devices will now be able to support multiple user logins. Each user can have their own homescreen, background, widgets, apps, and games. It even keeps things like game-save progress and high-scores separate. The update will also use multi-tasking to keep programs running in the background to make swapping users snappy.
Like a beefed up panaromic camera, Photo Sphere will let users do exactly what the name implies: take spherical photos. You can even add these spheres to Google Maps, which could make for some pretty cool crowdsourcing.
Daydream is a screensaver-esque feature that will let your device show off useful (or amusing) information when idle or docked. It seems that it’ll operating in a smart, Google Now-ish sort of way, and can show things like photo albums, news from Google Currents, and more.
Certain Android 4.2 notifications will now let you take appropriate actions directly from the notifications pane. We don’t know exactly what notifications will support this yet, but the example Google gives is returning a missed call directly from the notification.
Jelly Bean now supports a triple-tap to zoom in on small text, or anything else you need a closer look at. After you’re zoomed in, you can pan around with a two-fingered touch. There’s also Gesture mode for blind users, which uses touch and swipe gestures along speech output to make it possible to navigate the UI without having to see it.
Google Now can now pull from Gmail to get ideas for new cards. It can also help you track packages, scout out movie information, and even help you find great spots for photo-ops based on your location. [Google]
Data-master John Neslon created this bottoms-up view (looking at the Earth from Antarctica) of every single tropical storm and hurricane we know about, dating back to 1851. It’s based on data from NOAA’s archives, which include wind speed, storm name, date, and other information. The color of the path is tied to intensity. See the highest resolution on Flickr.
From Nelson’s blog, called IDV User Experience:
A couple of things stood out to me about this data…
Hurricanes clearly abhor the equator and fling themselves away from the warm waters of their birth as quickly as they can. Paging Dr. Freud.
The void circling the image is the equator. Hurricanes can never ever cross it.
Detection has skyrocketed since satellite technology but mostly since we started logging storms in the eastern hemisphere. Also the proportionality of storm severity looks to be getting more consistent year to year with the benefit of more data.
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Apple allows any app to access your address book at any time—it’s built into the iPhone’s core software. The idea is to make using these apps more seamless and magical, in that you won’t have dialog boxes popping up in your face all the time, the way Apple zealously guards your location permissions at an OS level—because fewer clicks mean a more graceful experience, right? Maybe, but the consequence is privacy shivved and consent nullified. Your phone makes decisions about what’s okay to share with a company, whose motivation is, ultimately, making money, without consulting you first.
Once you peel back that pretty skin of your phone and observe the software at work—we used a proxy application called Charles—watching the data that jumps between your phone and a remote server is plain. A little too plain. What can we see?
As Paul Haddad, the developer behind the popular Twitter client TapBot pointed out to me, some of App Store’s shiniest celebrities are among those that beam away your contact list in order to make hooking up with other friends who use the app smoother. From Haddad’s own findings:
Foursquare (Email, Phone Numbers no warning)
Path (Pretty much everything after warning)
Instagram (Email, Phone Numbers, First, Last warning)
Facebook (Email, Phone Numbers, First, Last warning)
Twitter for iOS (Email, Phone Numbers, warning)
Voxer (Email, First, Last, Phone numbers, warning)
Foursquare and Instagram have both recently updated to provide a much clearer warning of what you’re about to share. Which every single app should follow, providing clear warnings before they touch your contacts. But plenty of apps aren’t so generous. “A lot of other popular social networking apps send some data,” says Haddad, “mostly names, emails, phone numbers.” Instapaper, for example, transmits your address book’s email listings when you ask it to “search contacts” to connect with other friends using the app. The app never makes it clear that my data (shown up top) is leaving the phone—and once it’s out of your hands and in Instagram’s, all you can do is trust that it’ll be handled responsibly. You know, like not be stored permanently without your knowledge.
Trust is all we’ve got, and that’s not good. “Once the data is out of your device there’s no way to tell what happens to it,” explains Haddad. Companies might do the decent thing and delete your data immediately. Like Foursquare, which says it doesn’t store your data at all after matching your friends, and never has. Twitter keeps your address book data for 18 months “to make it easy for you and your contacts to discover each other on Twitter after you’ve signed up,” but can delete the data at any time with a link at the bottom of this page. Or a company might do the Path thing, storing that information indefinitely until they’re publicly shamed into doing otherwise. Or worse.
We need a solution, and goodwill on the part of app devs is going to cut it. All the ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DO THIS? dialog boxes in the world won’t absolve Apple’s decision to hand out our address books on a pearly platter. iOS is the biggest threat to iOS—and nothing short of a major revision to the way Apple allows apps to run through your contacts should be acceptable. But is that even enough? Maybe not.
Jay Freeman, developer behind the massively popular jailbroken-iPhone program Cydia, doesn’t think Apple’s hand is enough to definitively state who gets your address book, and when:
“Neither Apple nor the application developer is in a good position to decide that ahead of time, and due to this neither Apple’s model of ‘any app can access the address book, no app can access your recent calls’, nor Google’s method of ‘developer claims they need X, take it or leave it’ is sufficient.”
Freeman’s solution? Cydia’s “one-off modifications to the underlying operating system” that we deal in, nicely transfers this control back to the user.” In other words, we can’t trust Apple or the people that make apps—so let’s just trust ourselves to control how iOS works.
Freeman left us with one, final, disquieting note. Shrewd devs and others with the knowhow have been able to dig through app traffic to find out of they’re shoveling around your address book. But there’s no easy way to do this—and if a dev really wants to sneak your data through the door, there’s technically nothing we can do to stop him: “There are tons of complex tricks that can be used to smuggle both information in network traffic and computation itself.” It’s a problem fundamental to computer science—once the data’s in a dev’s hands, he can conjure it away, too small to be noticed by App Store oversight in churning sea of other apps.
Unless Apple keeps him from getting that information in the first place by letting us all make informed decisions with our phone and the private life poured into it. Your move, iOS.
When news spread Saturday night of Whitney Houston‘s passing, it was the AP who had the first official statement from Houston’s publicist confirming the singer’s death.
But an entire hour before that, Twitter user Brittany J. Pullard (aka @BarBeeBrit) was the first person to tweet the news, according to the below graph posted by Twitter, courtesy of @isaach.
@BarBeeBritt, who resides in Los Angeles and enjoys the Hollywood club scene, as evident by her Twitter feed, tweeted at 4:02pm PST to her then-799 followers:
The tweet only received three retweets and @BarBreeBritt never revealed how exactly she heard the news, but Twitter user @AjaDiorNavy quickly had specific details of Houston’s passing at 4:15pm PST that weren’t released to the public until nearly 24 hours after the initial incident.
Once the AP tweeted the official statement from Houston’s publicist at 4:57pm PST, rapper Lil Wayne quickly expressed his condolences and received 29,000 retweets, according to Mediabistro.
Other celebrities voiced their sympathies as well, but after Lil Wayne, the top tweets went to:
Justin Bieber (15,000 retweets): “just heard the news. so crazy. One of the GREATEST VOICES EVER just passed. RIP Whitney Houston. My prayers go out to her friends and family.”
Nicki Minaj (9,000 retweets): “Jesus Christ, not Whitney Houston. Greatest of all time,” as well as tweeting a vintage photo of the late singer alongside Michael Jackson.
Katy Perry (8,000 retweets): “So devastating. We will always love you Whitney, R.I.P.”
As if there were any doubt, it appears Twitter truly is the fastest news source. Sorry, TMZ, solid effort.
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