Don’t forget to setup Find My iPhone

It was almost a year ago that somebody smashed the passenger side window of my car and stole my messenger bag which contained, among other things, my month old iPad. I was parked right outside the Trader Joe’s on 22nd Street where there were plenty of people walking around (it was 6:30pm). There was even a guy from Trader Joe’s directing traffic around their parking lot. Yet nobody saw or heard anything. And of course there weren’t any security cameras monitoring the area where I was parked. I was pissed. My Trader Giotto’s Tomato Basil Marinara sauce never tasted so bitter.

Find My iPhoneBut I was most angry at myself for not setting up Find My iPhone. Had I taken a few minutes to set this up, I would have at least had a fighting chance to recover my iPad. So if you’ve got an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac make sure you enable Find My iPhone, which will help you locate your device on a map, play a sound, display a message, remotely lock your device, or even erase all the data on it.

In order to setup Find My iPhone, you’ll need to first setup iCloud on your device. This can be done by tapping the Settings icon on the Home screen, selecting iCloud, and entering your Apple ID. You can use the same one you use for iTunes or setup a new account. (detailed instructions here) Once iCloud is setup, make sure Find My iPhone is set to On.

Now, if your device is ever lost or stolen, you can download the free Find My iPhone app on another iOS device. Then login using the same Apple ID you used to setup iCloud. If your device is online, it will locate it on a map and allow you to play a sound on the device (useful if you’ve misplaced your phone or iPad). If you’re running iOS 6, you can enable Lost mode, which will allow you to enter a message that will be displayed on the device, a phone number where you can be reached, and a four digit passcode to remotely lock the device (if you already set a passcode on the device, it will be used). For even greater security, you can remotely erase all data on the device. If you get the device back, you restore your data from a backup (which conveniently can also be done through iCloud).

I have a new iPad now, and Find My iPhone was the first thing I setup. And if I’m ever craving Trader Ming’s Pot Stickers, I make sure to lock my bag in the trunk.

Posted in Apple, iPad, iPhone, security

Microsoft to replace Windows Live Messenger with Skype

Microsoft purchased Skype last year, and they’ve finally decided how to put it to good use – as a replacement for their current messaging platform, Windows Live Messenger.
Windows Live Messenger will be phased out over the next few months and users will be moved to Skype. Microsoft is hopeful that the transition will be smooth, and in easing what could prove to be difficult, they plan to allow current Live Messengers log in to Skype with their Microsoft ID. This will also allow for contacts from Live Messenger to be transferred automatically to Skype. Users who already have Skype accounts will find their contacts in both platforms merged into one, which Microsoft feels will allow for easier communication and collaboration.

In addition to the ease of communication, Microsoft feels that the added features Skype will bring is another big reason for the switch.
Among these new features: support for more devices; video, landline, and mobile calling functions will be consolidated into one single application; sharing of screens; video calling from mobile devices and via Facebook; and group video calling will be added.

With consumers favoring social media and texting over Instant Messaging, Microsoft feels they have a more universal and compatible product in Skype. The business world, however, still relies strongly on Instant Messaging as a technology. It plays a large role in unified communications, which means the Skype rollout will also give the business world more features in one product. Presence functionality – the ability to know a coworkers location and availability, is built in to the software – which is a major reason why Instant Messaging technology is so important for businesses.

Social messaging is a big competitor in the consumer market, but even enterprise social software makers are trying to integrate instant messaging to their platforms because of the heavy reliance by businesses. Microsoft currently has an enterprise product, called Lync, which includes Instant Messaging. Right now, Microsoft doesn’t have plans to oust Lync in favor of Skype, but they will likely plan to increase integration between both in the future.

In the end, Microsoft is just treating the change as another new client that users will need to upgrade to in order to keep up with changing technology. The transition will be smooth, so it’s unlikely to cause many customer issues.

Posted in Uncategorized

Could the future of batteries be….sugar?

According to a research group at the Tokyo University of Science, this may be a reality. The study leader, Associate Professor Shinichi Komaba, has confirmed that an adequate material for sodium ion batteries can be made by breaking down sucrose, the main component of sugar, using heat and chemicals.

Using sugar is not only more efficient, but is also much more cost-effective. Most rechargeable batteries found in digital cameras, cell phones, and other electronics are lithium ion batteries, but lithium is a rare element, making these batteries expensive. Since lithium is rare, it must be imported to many countries, contributing to the high price. Sodium ion batteries were created as a cheaper, more sustainable substitute. Sodium supply, unlike lithium, is unlimited; and plentiful elements like iron, aluminum, and sodium can be used in manufacturing, instead of copper or cobalt. Sugar is what turns batteries into high-capacity devices – the battery’s negative charge comes from hard carbon derived from sucrose, another extremely abundant element.

Hard carbon is made using a process called pyrolyzing, which basically means it’s heated in an oxygen-free electric furnace at a very high temperature. The process is very precise because the sucrose will burn if air gets in, but even so, it is very easy to manufacture. The end result is a black powder, called hard carbon.

The research group has been able to increase the storage capacity of regular batteries by 20% simply by using sucrose as the base for hard carbon. Kombata’s group forsees that it may take five years before a practical version of the battery is produced, but the savings in both money and rare elements would certainly be a real breakthrough in the way our electronics are powered.

Posted in Gadgets, Tech News

The Six Strikes Program

The anti-piracy program referred to as “six strikes” is rumored to hit the US by the end of 2012.  Jill Lesser, head of the Center for Copyright Information, says the program will launch this year, although the same claim was made in 2011. Will we actually see six strikes come to fruition this year?

The program, officially known as the Copyright Alert System, combines the efforts of Hollywood studios, record labels and major U.S. Internet service providers (ISPs.) The goal is to stop piracy, by giving repeat offenders warnings based on how many strikes they have. While the first strike may result in simple warning, users who receive a fifth warning will be redirected to a landing page with educational information on copyright. Their internet service will not be restored until they contact their ISP.

It is unclear how ISPs will handle Internet users who reach six strikes. There is speculation on whether users will be disconnected, sued by rights holders, fined, etc. While Lesser is promising the six strikes program by year’s end, ISPs are not providing any details on the program. Is this a realistic timeline considering we have not heard any new information since the initial announcement of July 2011?

A similar program in France called Hadopi, allows three strikes against users. Keeping up with the copyright infringements for a population of 65 million people has proven to be a difficult task for Hadopi. While 18 million complaints have been made, the agency has only dispersed 470,000 first strikes, 20,000 second strikes and 10 third strikes. Hadopi attributes this to two factors: technical difficulties and wanting to give users time to change their ways after their first strike.

What are your thoughts on the six strikes program? Do you think we will see it in 2012?

Posted in Uncategorized

PastBook Raises $250K To Help Preserve Online Memories

In today’s day and age, many of our most precious memories only exist online, in the form of photographs. Many of those photos are spread out along various social networks, making it difficult to keep track of them all. An Amsterdam-based company called PastBook has emerged to try and help share memories for generations to come. PastBook is trying to make it easy to combine your photographic memories both online, and in tactile form. If you visit their website, you can see options to create an online book, which can be browsed online or download as a PDF, but you also have the ability to turn the online book into a professionally printed copy.
Instagram is the first social network that PastBook will launch, and Facebook will follow suit. In addition to viewing a hard or online copy of your photos, comments and ‘likes’ on your photos can be included “in bid to make users’ memories more vivid”, says the company. Not only can you create a PastBook for yourself, the app also incorporates a user’s social graph, allowing you to easily create PastBooks as gifts for friends. Eventually, the goal is to support all main photo sharing social networks, including Flickr and Twitter. While several other apps to print your online photos into a physical book already exist, PastBook says it is different because, not only does it go beyond just printing, but it is not simply trying to create “another timeline” in the cloud. PastBook has just recently raised $250K with some help from investors to help further their goals, so only time will tell how successful they will become. In the meantime, try it out, it’s free!

Posted in social media, Tech News

Summer Reading 2.0 – An E-Reader Review

Labor Day may be just around the corner, but there are hopefully plenty of quality beach days remaining. For many, a trip to the beach is not complete without packing a good book to read for the day. Whether it is assigned summer reading for school, or the latest Grisham thriller, paging through a new book is a seasonal tradition for many of us. Prior to a recent vacation in Cape Cod I decided to make an investment in my first e-book reader (e-reader).

While not the first, Amazon’s release of the Kindle in 2007 revolutionized the way many enjoy books these days. Since that time, other manufacturers including Barnes and Noble have released “electronic paper” or “e-ink” readers. Not to be confused with other ‘tablet computers’ which typically feature a colored, backlit, LCD display, e-readers mimic the look of traditional text on page in black and white. This technology is said to be more comfortable for long term reading, allows for reading outdoors and in direct sunlight, and is also much more energy efficient. This increased energy efficiency allows for hours of e-book reading and infrequent e-book charging. There are many other benefits to e-readers also: starting a new book can be done from almost anywhere and virtually instantly (requires WiFi or optional 3G, however these features are not required when reading). E-readers are more portable and take up less space, they are also more environmentally friendly.

When it comes to e-readers, it is typically a two horse race: Amazon’s Kindle and the Nook by Barnes and Noble. I will say that after extensively reviewing both, each is a great product.  I ultimately decided on the Nook Touch for mostly aesthetic reasons. The Nook features an all-black matte design that is comfortable and light in the hand. It is hefty enough feel like you are holding something, but small enough to be portable in any bag, purse, or beach bag.

From an ease of use standpoint, functionality could not be easier. Featuring a very simple menu, I found myself reading my first book in a matter of minutes. The integrated Barnes and Noble shop features an expansive catalog and each of the books I was seeking were available. Reading and navigating the books is straightforward also, “flipping” through the pages is as easy as pressing either the left or right part of the screen, or using cleverly disguised buttons on the side bezel.

Overall I am quite happy with the purchase. I have found myself reading more, and enjoying the Nook everywhere from an airport terminal to the beach. I have found with my use it needs a charge once every week and a half or so, which is fantastic. If you are an avid reader, or are looking for a way to read more, I strongly urge you to consider an e-reader. At around $100 (plus book purchases) they are fairly affordable and are available both in stores and online.

Posted in Gadgets, Mobile trends, technology

Emerging Market for 3-D Films in China

China is an emerging market for 3-D films. Both Avatar 3-D and Titanic 3-D had great success in China, respectively grossing $204 million and $153 million. In China, Titanic 3-D grossed $100 million within the first week, which is more than anywhere else in the world. James Cameron, the director of Avatar and Titanic, has taken notice and expressed interest. Cameron stated “The future of entertainment is 3-D and we believe that the future of 3-D is right here in China.”

China’s middle class is growing and so is its disposable income. More people are traveling to movie theaters to view the latest releases. The Chinese audience wants not only a movie, but a heightened experience – enter the 3-D movie. Hollywood is on the cutting edge of 3-D technology. China’s 3-D technology cannot compare at this time, causing American 3-D blockbusters to be in high demand. China’s box office sales in the first half of 2012 were up 41.7% due to imported movies. Most of the imported movies were in 3-D format.

One issue with importing 3-D blockbusters to China is the language barrier. As a viewer, it’s difficult to watch a 3-D film while simultaneously reading subtitles. It almost certainly causes a headache. This is one of the challenges that filmmakers are trying to address and resolve. One solution is to keep projector bulbs turned up high to help eyes easily adjust. Unfortunately, each bulb costs about $790, so it’s a fairly expensive solution. Another way to help ease the eyes is to shoot the 3-D film live by using two cameras at once. Most 3-D films are shot and then transformed into a 3-D film in post-production. Shooting 3-D films live is also quite expensive.

Despite some challenges, it seems that 3D films in China are the next big thing.

What do you think of 3D films?

Posted in Uncategorized

Apple and Amazon Security Flaws

Recently, tech journalist Mat Honan was the victim of an ‘epic hack’ as a result of some pretty serious security flaws at Amazon and Apple. First, his Google account was taken over and deleted. Then his Twitter account was compromised, his AppleID account broken into, and all of his data on his iPhone, iPad and MacBook were remotely erased. Pretty scary stuff.

How was this accomplished? Well, Honan got the details from the hacker in exchange for promising not to press charges. Strong passwords are important but they are not enough; flaws in many customer service systems can allow hackers to reset your password and access your data. Ultimately, all they needed was Honan’s email address, a billing address (which they got from the Whois information for a domain registered under his name) and the last four digits of a credit card on file.

Turns out that all you needed to get into an iCloud account was a billing address and the last four digits of a credit card on file. The hackers called Amazon and told them they were Honan and wanted to add a credit card to the account. All you needed to do this is the name on the account, an associated email address, and the billing address. Amazon then allows you to input a new credit card number. After doing this, the hackers called back and told them that they lost access to the account. By providing the new credit card number and the billing address, they were able to add a new email address to the Amazon account. After this, they went to Amazon’s site and sent a password reset to the new email address, which allowed them to see all of the credit cards on the account — not the entire numbers, just the last four digits.

Pretty scary stuff. Apple and Amazon have quietly closed these security flaws, but you can be sure more holes will be discovered. Honan’s main recommendations are:

1. Don’t link together key services (i.e., your iCloud and Google accounts)

2. Don’t use the same email prefix across multiple accounts (i.e.,,,

3. Backup your data — Honan lost photos covering the entire lifespan of his daughter, in addition to documents and emails that were stored in no other location.

Posted in Amazon, Apple, security Tagged ,

World’s Fastest Camera Used to Detect Rogue Cancer Cells

Technology is rapidly and radically changing the health field. For instance, the use of cameras is often commonplace when studying cells, but scientists have discovered an even better way to distinguish and isolate rare cells from large groups of assorted cells. This ability is increasingly important for the early detection and monitoring of diseases and their treatments.
An example of one of the most targeted type of ‘rare’ cells, is the circulating cancer tumor cell. When present, these cells are few and far between, considering the billions of surrounding healthy cells. However, these tumor cells are precursors to the spread of cancer that causes about 90% of cancer mortalities. These rare cells are not limited to cancer – stem cells used for regenerative medicine are other examples.

Detecting these types of cells is difficult. Achieving good statistical accuracy requires an automated instrument using what is called a ‘high-throughput screening’, which can examine millions of cells rather quickly. Even though microscopes outfitted with digital cameras are regarded as the ideal way to analyze cells, they just aren’t fast enough. Engineers at UCLA have developed an optical microscope that would stand up to the task. In order to view these cells, the cameras needed must have the ability to capture and digitally process millions of images continuously, at a very high frame rate. Conventional cameras are not rapid or sensitive enough, and the actually become less sensitive to light at a high speed because of the time needed to read data from the pixels.

The method currently used, relies on single-point light scattering, as opposed to taking a picture. This method is also not sensitive enough to detect early stage cancer cells, or other types of rare cells. UCLA has led research in breaking through to conquer these limitations. Experts in the field of optics and biotechnology have developed a high-throughput optical microscope that can detect rare cells with a sensitivity of one part per million in real time. In 2009, the same research team created the world fastest continuous-running camera, and they put it to good use here. Their developments are based on, but also enhance the technology behind the world fastest continuous-running camera.

This new technology is leaps and bounds more efficient when classifying cells in blood samples than conventional methods. Additionally, research indicates that false-positive results are at record lows with the new method, at a rate of one cell in a million. Early test results have shown that this new technology has the potential to quickly enable the detection of rare circulating tumor cells from a large volume of blood, which paves the way for both statistical accuracy in early detection of cancer, and for monitoring the efficiency of drug and radiation therapy. In addition to these breakthroughs, the technology can cut down on errors and reduce costs in medical diagnosis.

Tests were conducted by using lab-grown cancer cells, which were mixed with blood in various proportions to emulate the real-life blood of a potential patient. Clinical tests are also in the works, but researchers also say this technology can be useful in various other ways, such as for urine analysis, water quality monitoring and other related applications.

Posted in Innovation, Tech News, technology Tagged

Technology in the Summer Olympics: #London2012

This Friday will mark the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. While the Olympics have always symbolized traditions of the past, it will be exciting to see how technology impacts this years’ competition.

Timing is crucial during the Olympics. Just think of the 100m dash —  a fraction of a second is the difference between the gold, silver or no medal at all. Omega is the official timekeeper of the London 2012 Olympic Games, providing scoreboards, countdowns and some new timing technologies that will allow for more data-crunching than ever before. One such technology, The Quantum Timer, can simultaneously compare 16 competitors at once with accuracy down to one-millionth of a second.

With advanced timing comes advanced analytics. This is the first year that data from all 26 Olympic events will be fed to Atos’ Commentator Information System (CIS.) Results from Omega are relayed to CIS in less than a second, which are instantly shared with Olympic officials, broadcasters around the world, press agencies, etc. In addition to the competitive results, CIS takes into account the many factors that can affect who gets the gold- athlete information, weather, event schedules and more. Atos predicts a 30% increase in data captured at the 2012 London Games compared to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Another way technology is playing a role in the 2012 Games is through social media. You can stay up to date on Olympic happenings with Twitter, Facebook and Olympic websites (,, If Olympic athletes are social media gold, then the Olympic Hub is the jackpot.  Find out which athletes have the most followers on Twitter, learn about featured athletes from around the world and get the latest Olympic updates.

But wait, there’s more! Follow #London2012 on Twitter to get a live feed of the Opening Ceremony this Friday. Wondering where the Olympic torch is right now? You can find out on Twitter by searching for #London2012TorchRelay for the latest.

How will you stay connected during the #London2012 games?

Posted in Olympics, social media, technology Tagged , , , , , ,