Snapchat launches universal search to simplify navigation

snapchat-search Snapchat just made it much easier to navigate around the app and find friends, groups, Discover publishers, and Our Stories with a universal search bar that’s always accessible at the top of the app. Launching today for some people on Android and rolling out soon to all iOS and Android users, the search bar lets you dig the best content and conversations out of Snapchat. The company… Read More
Microsoft Office 2010
Fatal error: Call to a member function xpath() on a non-object in /home1/mylifeco/public_html/ on line 129

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Pandora is laying off 7% of its US workforce

pandora-ios-icon Pandora said it would lay off around 7 percent of its U.S. workforce, excluding Ticketfly, by the end of the first quarter this year in an announcement that it would beat the guidance it set for the fourth quarter in 2016. Pandora now has more than 4.3 million paid subscribers, which at the end of the year is a flash of good news for a company desperately in need of some. Pandora has had… Read More
Microsoft Office 2010
Fatal error: Call to a member function xpath() on a non-object in /home1/mylifeco/public_html/ on line 129

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Snapchat is making its app less confusing as it prepares to IPO

Snapchat search

One of the longstanding knocks against Snapchat is that the app’s design is confusing to use.

And with the company preparing for a massive IPO, that’s something that might not sit well with investors looking for the next Facebook.

On Thursday, Snapchat took the first step to making its app easier to use and more accessible to the general public. 

An update to the app announced on Thursday, streamlines the app’s design with more visual profiles and improved search capabilities.

A new search bar throughout the app lets you quickly jump into conversations with friends, and each profile can be represented by its own Bitmoji, the customizable emoji app Snapchat purchased for more than $100 million in July 2016.

Snapchat will also use the new search bar to surface the handful of media partners who create content in its app every day — so you’ll be able to search for “CNN” to see its daily package of stories from Snapchat’s Discover section.

Snapchat is also stepping up its crowdsourcing of user videos, which it calls “stories.” Every one of the app’s 150 million daily users will be able to submit video clips to a global “Our Story,” which the company’s employees will then collect around themed events and specific locations like a football game.

Snapchat update

A spokesperson said that Thursday’s updates will be available to a limited number of Android users first before they’re made available to all Snapchat users “soon.”

Snapchat parent company Snap Inc. is preparing for an initial public offering that could value its advertising businesses at between $20-25 billion.

SEE ALSO: Facebook has a mysterious team working on tech that sounds a lot like mind reading

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The fabulous and charmed life of 26-year-old self-made billionaire, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel

Microsoft Office 2010
Fatal error: Call to a member function xpath() on a non-object in /home1/mylifeco/public_html/ on line 129

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Apple's Macs were the biggest losers of the PC industry in 2016 (AAPL)

Apple was the manufacturer that shrunk its PC shipments the most in 2016, with its Mac laptops and desktops ceding 9.8% market share to other companies, according to a report from analyst firm IDC.  

Overall, 2016 marked the fifth consecutive year of decline in the overall PC industry, with a 5.7% dip in PC shipments from 2015. Dell was the biggest winner for the year, showing a 4.3% gain in shipments.

Check out the chart:

Screenshot 2017 01 12 14.30.21

We already had some signs in the middle of 2016 that it was going to be a rough year for Apple: In the second and third quarters of the year, shipments of Apple’s Macs were declining way faster than industry average, as people waited impatiently for the company to release a new MacBook Pro.

The fourth quarter of 2016 went a little better for Apple. That new MacBook Pro, which arrived in October 2016, stabilized things for Apple, and it saw a meager .8% decline over the same period in 2015, according to IDC. But it wasn’t enough to totally regain the ground that Apple had already lost to Windows-based PCs earlier in the year. 

Macbook Pro

Meanwhile, some of Apple’s biggest fans feel forced to buy ‘pathetic’ and ‘old’ Macs from 2013, as the company doesn’t offer desktop and laptops to suit their needs. And Microsoft says that Apple fans disappointed over the newest MacBook Pro are leaving Macs behind entirely and coming over to its Surface devices. 

Apple’s strategy has always been to focus on the higher end of the market, where it makes more money selling fewer computers, so the fact that it increased its market share by 7.4% is still good news. And there are larger trends at play here, as people generally keep their PCs longer.

Still, coming out of a year when Apple posted its first annual loss in revenue since 2001, and when Mac fans are concerned that the computers are no longer a priority at the company, it’s not an encouraging statistic.

SEE ALSO: The PC market shrunk for the fifth straight year, which is weirdly good news for Dell and HP

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The best and worst things about the new MacBook Pro with the ‘Touch Bar’

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Pandora just said its laying off 7 percent of its workforce — and the stock is spiking (P)


Internet radio pioneer Pandora is cutting 7% of its workforce by the end of Q1 2017, the company announced Thursday.

Pandora also said it expects to “exceed previously announced Q4 2016 revenue and adjusted EBITDA guidance rangesgiven strong advertising performance. It now has more than 4.3 million paying subscribers.

The stock was up over 7% in after-hours trading Thursday immediately following the news.

Pandora said the job cuts, which would be executed by the end of the first quarter in 2017, are intended to reduce operational costs in 2017.

As of December 31, 2015, Pandora had 2,219 employees, according to Reuters, meaning the cuts likely represent over 150 jobs (Pandora said the cuts excluded Ticketfly).

“While making workforce reductions is always a difficult decision, the commitment to cost discipline will allow us to invest more heavily in product development and monetization and build on the foundations of our strategic investments,” Pandora CEO Tim Westergren said in a statement.

The long-term prospects of Pandora seem to rest in the success of its upcoming on-demand product, Pandora Premium. The service will compete with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. That product had been shown to press and investors, and is scheduled for release early this year.

For sale?

For months, Pandora has endured on-and-off rumors that it’s trying to sell itself, and satellite radio powerhouse Sirius XM has been floated as the main suitor.

But, unfortunately for Pandora, Sirius XM doesn’t appear to be interested. Earlier this month, Sirius CFO David Frear threw cold water on the speculation.

“With respect to all the chatter about acquisitions, you have to look at them as sort of being not very likely,” Sirius CFO David Frear said Thursday (after market close) at a Citi conference in Las Vegas, as noted by TheStreet.

Sirius XM had reportedly made an informal offer to buy Pandora in 2016 for $15 per share (Pandora is currently trading at around $13 per share). That offer valued the company at over $3.4 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal

SEE ALSO: Here are the Netflix and Amazon TV shows that have gotten the best buzz over the last few years

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: 9 iPhone tricks that will make your life easier in 2017

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Announcing Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15007 for PC and Mobile

Hello Windows Insiders!

Today we are excited to be releasing Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15007 for PC and Mobile to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring.

What’s new in Build 15007 for PC & Mobile

More Microsoft Edge Improvements:

  • Sharing your tabs (PC): We’ve added the ability to share a set of tabs you’ve set aside. Just click the “Tabs you’ve set aside” button, and under the “…” menu select the option to “Share tabs” with many apps installed on your PC.
  • Import data (PC): We’re making it even easier to bring your data over from another browser when you switch to Microsoft Edge. The new “Import from another browser” button in Settings allows you to bring your favorites, browsing history, saved passwords, and other data from another browser you have installed, in one simple step.

Import settings in Microsoft Edge.

  • Running faster (PC): You can now choose to “Run” a download link without first saving it, and we’ve added a “Save As” option to the existing “Save” link.

Run dialog in Microsoft Edge.

  • Web Notes improvements (PC): We’ve updated Web Notes to now leverage the familiar Windows Ink experience you’ve come to know in Photos and Maps, amongst other places. Tap the pen or highlighter in Web Notes, and you will now see the full set of Windows Ink colors, as well as the new slider released for Windows Ink with Build 14986.

Web Notes improvements in Microsoft Edge.

  • Text scaling and zoom (Mobile): Based on your feedback, in Microsoft Edge you can now zoom into a webpage regardless of zoom settings defined by the website, matching other mobile browsers. Pages are now zoomable to at least 500%. Because of this, we no longer automatically scale text in Microsoft Edge when you’ve enabled the Ease of Access option to increase the text size, since you can zoom in on the text to reach a size that matches your own comfort level. This addresses feedback that Ease of Access zoom settings made web pages render incorrectly.
  • Apps for Websites: Clicking links to websites that support web-to-app linking will now open that page in the respective app.

[Coming Soon] Download themes for your PC from the Windows Store (PC): In Build 15002, we introduced the new themes settings page in the Settings app. Soon, you’ll be able to go directly from the themes setting page directly to the Windows Store to download new themes for your PC! This isn’t working yet in today’s build and you’ll see a Store icon that does nothing at the bottom of the themes setting page. However, you can go to the Store page for themes here to try out downloading themes from the Store.

Themes in the Windows Store.

Cortana can help you pick up where you left off (PC): If you have multiple PCs, you probably know how cumbersome it can be to find everything you need to resume work after switching between PCs. Cortana can now help with that! When you switch computers, Cortana will display quick links in the Action Center to help you easily get back into the Microsoft Edge websites and SharePoint (or other cloud-based) documents you used most recently. For example, if you were working on a PowerPoint deck on your laptop, when you later return to your desktop, a link to that deck appears in Action Center. Or perhaps you’re browsing recipes in Microsoft Edge on your PC downstairs, and grab your laptop to go bake up a storm in the kitchen—Cortana will be there for you and have a link to that recipe ready to go. In adding this feature, we’ve also updated Cortana to take advantage of notification grouping, described earlier, so you can more easily differentiate between the types of messages.

Inline progress bar for notifications (PC): Based on your feedback, app developers can now send toast notifications with a progress indicator to show progress to the user, such as download progress, exercise progress, etc. As a highly related but separate feature, we now also support developers to update an existing notification through “data-binding”. Please go to Tiles and Toast MSDN Blog to find out more.

Inline progress bar notifications.

In a future build, you will see this capability with Windows Store downloads.

Scrollbar improvements for UWP (PC & Mobile): We have made improvements to the XAML scrollbar for mouse to ensure it is available when you need it, while taking up less space and causing less undesirable flashing when you don’t. With these changes, the panning indicator now appears when you move a mouse over a scrolling region and the full scrollbar appears when you want to directly interact with it. This improvement will be visible in any app that uses the Windows 10 Creators Update SDK.

Scrollbar improvrments.

Windows Hello Enrollment Improvements (PC): With Build 15007 we are bringing in some exciting improvements around how you discover and enroll into Windows Hello’s facial recognition. For devices and peripherals that support Windows Hello. you’ll now see a visual guidance that tracks your face in real-time, shows you an improved progress indicator and gives you real-time feedback to quickly and smoothly set your face up for signing in. The best way to know what’s changed? Try it out! You can setup or improve your Windows Hello facial recognition under Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options > Windows Hello > Face recognition.

Rainbow Flag: Microsoft’s continued dedication to diversity brings the rainbow flag to the emoji font and keyboard!

Rainbow flag emoji.

New Bluetooth APIs (PC & Mobile): This is the first build you can try out the new APIs that enable GATT Server, Bluetooth LE Peripheral role and unpaired Bluetooth LE device connectivity. We will be flighting an updated SDK tomorrow, please look for 15003 or greater SDK.  For more information, the Windows developer blog will have post tomorrow on GATT Server once the SDK flights.

Keyboard navigation improvements for the Snipping Tool (PC): You can now take a screen capture using only your keyboard. Press Alt + N, select the desired snip type and press enter – this will start the capture. Now use the arrow keys to move the cursor to one of the intended corners of your snip, and press either space or enter to start selecting your snip area. Once you have the area you want, press enter or space again to finish the capture. This keyboard navigation also works with the new Win + Shift + S keyboard shortcut.

What’s new in Build 15007 for just Mobile

Sync your settings using Azure Active Directory (AAD) Identity (Mobile): You can now sync your settings on AA-Joined phones using Enterprise State Roaming. With Enterprise State Roaming enabled for your phone, you can sync settings such as passwords, Wi-Fi profiles, Edge Favorites, Edge Reading List, and app data across desktop and mobile devices. To get the most out of this feature, make sure sync is turned on for the same account on both your mobile and desktop device under Settings > Accounts > Sync Your Settings.

App reset (Mobile): One of the features added to PC with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update was the ability to reset an app back to its original state. We’re happy to announce starting with Build 15007, the same will now be possible on Mobile – thanks everyone who logged feedback requesting this! If you have a UWP app in a bad state, open Settings > System > Storage, and navigate to the app. In the advanced settings for that app, you’ll now see a “Reset” option. Tapping it will clear the app’s cache, and reset the app as if it had just been installed (without actually having to reinstall it).

Cortana loves music (Mobile): You can now use Cortana to control music playback on more of your favorite music apps (EN-US only). Starting with this build, we’ve enabled natural language compatibility for iHeartRadio and TuneIn Radio. While you are listening to music in one of these apps, you can also use your voice to control playback and volume. With radio stations, we often want to know what that catchy tune is that has played a million times, so we added support for “What’s Playing”. Try saying “Hey Cortana, What’s Playing” and it will work for all apps playing music. This appeared for Insiders on PCs with Build 14986.

Adding music recognition support to Chinese (Simplified) (Mobile): Cortana can now recognize music for customers in China. Simply tap the music notes icon in the top corner of Cortana’s home page, and Cortana will listen to whatever music is playing and use Netease to tell you what song it is. This works exactly like the feature does in English (United States). This appeared for Insiders on PCs with Build 14986.

Cortana sign-in using Azure Active Directory (AAD) identity (Mobile): This capability will allow you to sign into Cortana with your work or school account instead your MSA, enabling you to use Cortana even if your organization does not support MSA. To sign in to Cortana using your work or school account, just go to Cortana’s Notebook and “About Me” and sign in. You’ll get the full Cortana experience with most of the same features. This appeared for Insiders on PCs with Build 14986.

More recurrence options for Cortana Reminders (Mobile): We’ve heard your feedback, and we’ve added a new option to set recurring time-based Cortana Reminders for “Every Month” or “Every Year” — great for bill payment or anniversary reminders! This appeared for Insiders on PCs with Build 15002.

Web payments: Microsoft Edge now has preview support for the new Payment Request API, which allows sites to make checkout easier using the payment and shipping preferences stored in your Microsoft Wallet. This is currently in a preview state for developers and will not process payment information until a future flight. You can learn more about Payment Request on the Microsoft Edge Dev Blog. This appeared for Insiders on PCs with Build 15002.

Improved legibility for UWP apps in high contrast (Mobile): In order to address some of the most common high contrast issues experienced in UWP apps, we’ve updated the XAML framework to now display an opaque layer behind the text and coerce semi-transparent UI to be fully opaque. This appeared for Insiders on PCs with Build 15002. These adjustments are applied by default in high contrast and apply to *all* XAML Store applications, however apps will have the opportunity to opt out using the Windows 10 Creators Update SDK. More details will be available once the latest SDK has been published. If you find any issues with this work, please log them here, and as always, you can reach out to @MSFTEnable on Twitter at any time about accessibility problems and requests you have for accessibility in Windows.

Helping you find the setting you need in Settings (Mobile): One of our ongoing goals has been to make Settings easier and faster to navigate – based on feedback we’ve made a few design tweaks that appeared for Insiders on PCs with Build 15002, and are now also available on Mobile:

  • Settings pages now contain additional information on the right or bottom (depending on the window size) providing links to support, feedback, and any other related settings if available.
  • Since our System Settings list was getting quite long, we’ve moved app related settings out of System into a new category called Apps.

Updated device settings (Mobile): The new device settings experience combines the Bluetooth and Connected devices pages to offer a single place to manage your devices/peripherals. We’ve also listened to your feedback and added the ability to disconnect and reconnect your Bluetooth audio devices directly from this Settings page, as well as updated the flow for adding a new device connection. Try out the new page and let us know what you think through the Feedback Hub! This appeared for Insiders on PCs with Build 15002.

New option to pause updates: We’ve added an option that will enable you to pause updates on your phone for up to 35 days. To pause your phone, go to the Settings > Update & security > Phone Update and tap Advanced. This capability will be available on enterprise managed devices on Windows 10 Mobile. This appeared for Insiders on PCs with Build 15002.

Other changes, improvements, and fixes for PC

  • We fixed an issue where tearing off a tab in Microsoft Edge (using your mouse to drag a tab into its own window) might cause your PC to bugcheck (GSOD).
  • We fixed an issue where going to Battery settings page via Settings > System > Battery crashes the Settings app.
  • We fixed an issue where the Virtual Touchpad was is missing from the taskbar context menu.
  • We fixed an issue where the touch keyboard button might be missing from the taskbar on touch machines.
  • We fixed an issue where Windows Hello was giving a “Couldn’t turn on the camera” error on the Lock screen.
  • We fixed an issue where Remote Desktop connections might unexpectedly fail due to an error saying invalid credentials (when in fact the credentials had been valid).
  • We fixed an issue that could result in the quick action section being missing from Action Center.
  • We fixed an issue where Surface pen clicks might not work after cycling Bluetooth off/on.
  • We fixed an issue where the Data Usage page in Settings might not load.
  • We’ve updated the Virtual Touchpad to be a little bigger.
  • We’ve fixed an issue resulting in the Netflix app potentially displaying a black screen rather than the expected video content.

Other changes, improvements, and fixes for Mobile

  • In response to your feedback, alarm sounds will start at a slightly higher volume level. (They will then ramp up to full volume, as before).
  • We fixed an issue Insiders with certain devices, such as the Lumia 950, may have experienced where their phone sometimes took an unexpectedly long time to show up after connecting to their PC.
  • We fixed an issue where System related notification toasts (e.g. Bluetooth, USB/Autoplay, etc.) didn’t work.
  • We’ve updated the experience when using Cortana to receive incoming SMS messages over Bluetooth to make it more reliable. To enable this feature if it is not already, open Cortana settings and make sure one of the following Bluetooth options is on: “Bluetooth and wired headsets” or “Bluetooth only”.
  • We fixed an issue where video recorded in portrait mode might not playback with the correct aspect ratio.
  • We fixed an issue on recent Insider builds resulting in the Skype Preview tile not updating with an alert badge when a new message had been received.
  • We fixed an issue where certain websites pinned to Start from Microsoft Edge when tapped would perform a web search rather than opening to that page.
  • We fixed an issue where the SIM Pin dialog would display truncated text in certain languages.
  • We fixed an issue that could result in the phone getting stuck at the Goodbye screen when rebooting if Bluetooth was enabled.
  • We fixed an issue resulting in the Outlook Calendar sometimes displaying the wrong date on its live tile after a new day has begun.
  • We fixed a bug that was preventing Notification Listener apps (like wearable apps) from accessing notifications on recent builds.

Known issues for PC

  • After updating to this build, nonstop exceptions in the Spectrum.exe service may occur causing PCs to lose audio, disk I/O usage to become very high, and apps like Microsoft Edge to become unresponsive when doing certain actions. As a workaround to get out of this state, you can delete C:ProgramDataMicrosoftSpectrumPersistedSpatialAnchors and reboot. For more details, see this forum post.
  • We are investigating certain situations in which PCs might bugcheck (GSOD) during the installation of new builds (15002+) causing the PC to rollback to the previous build.
  • When clicking on certain elements in desktop (Win32) games, the game minimizes and cannot be restored.
  • Desktop shortcuts containing the “%” character (usually URI shortcuts with escaped characters) will result in a cyclical explorer.exe crash. To resolve this, use Task Manager to open PowerShell, and edit the shortcut to not include a % in the path.
  • When projecting to a secondary monitor, if you set the connection to “Extended”, Explorer.exe may start crashing in a loop. If this happens, turn off your PC, disconnect the secondary monitor, then restart your PC.
  • Windows Insiders will unexpected see a “Holographic” entry on the main page of Settings.
  • Brightness changes made via Settings > System > Display will unexpectedly revert after closing the Settings app. For now, please use either Action Center, power flyout or brightness keys to change the brightness.
  • The list of apps in the Surface Dial “Add an app” page via Settings > Devices > Wheel may unexpectedly be empty. If that happens, tap the “Browse for an app” button at the bottom of the screen to pick the desired app instead.
  • Taskbar preview icons are unexpectedly small on high-DPI devices.
  • Quicken will fail to run with an error stating .NET 4.6.1 is not installed. For Insiders familiar with Registry Editor, there is an optional workaround. Take ownership of the following registry keys and edit the “version” value to be 4.6.XXXXX instead of 4.7.XXXXX:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREWOW6432NodeMicrosoftNET Framework SetupNDPv4Client

Note: Please take caution when editing the registry. Changing the wrong value can have unexpected and undesirable results.

  • Using CTRL + C to copy in Command Prompt won’t work.
  • Some websites in Microsoft Edge may unexpectedly show “We can’t reach this page”. If you encounter this, please try accessing the site from an InPrivate tab.
  • Dragging apps from the all apps list to pin on Start’s tile grid won’t work. For now, please right-click on the desired app in order to pin it.
  • Miracast sessions will fail to connect.
  • On certain hardware types (e.g.: Acer Aspire), the Netflix app crashes when starting a movie.
  • 3rd party UWP apps would crash on devices if the DPI settings on the machine are >=150% (Generally people do this on high resolution devices – Surface book etc.).
  • If you upgrade from Windows 8.1 directly to Build 15002, all your store apps are lost during upgrade process but you can go and re-download all the lost apps from the Store.
  • When using Microsoft Edge with Narrator, you may hear “no item in view” or silence while tabbing or using other navigation commands. You can use Alt + Tab when this happens to move focus away from and back to the Edge browser. Narrator will then read as expected.
  • Saying “Hey Cortana, play on ” doesn’t work immediately after installing the app. Wait 5 minutes for indexing to begin and try again.

Known issues for Mobile

  • The Windows Hello greeting is missing from the lock screen. Showing the animation and user name is important for letting you know we have securely identified you. Of course, we also recognize the essential purpose of the Windows Hello feature is getting you to your Start screen without delay.  We’re working hard to make sign-in as quick as possible across all Windows Hello scenarios.
  • AAD Identity Settings Sync: You may not see your Favorites or Reading List roam down in Microsoft Edge if you try to immediately open these tabs after opening Microsoft Edge. You can open Microsoft Edge, wait 30 seconds, and then open favorites and Reading List to see content.
  • AAD Identity Settings Sync: Microsoft Edge does not sync Reading List from PC to phone unless there is a restart.
  • AAD Identity Settings Sync: Microsoft Edge is syncing passwords on phone but not showing them in “saved passwords” in Microsoft Edge settings.
  • When you receive a new email notification and tap on it to open the message, it doesn’t open the Mail app or message.
  • New option to pause updates contains text referencing PC-only Windows Defender.
  • Insiders with certain devices, such as the Lumia 635 and 636, may not be able to manually change the brightness. The brightness will still automatically adjust if it is set to do so, so please use that for the time being while we investigate.
  • The ninja cat emoji display in two characters on the keyboard instead of the expected one.
  • Adding a new card / paying with an existing card will not work in Microsoft Wallet.

Upcoming Bug Bash

You all gave us feedback that you LOVED the last Bug Bash and wanted to do one during the holidays. We didn’t have the feature set we wanted in Insider Preview builds nor did we have the team available to help triage Feedback Hub items at that time so we decided to wait. The wait is almost over! Our second Bug Bash for the Windows 10 Creators Update is planned for Friday February 3rd through Sunday February 12th. By the participation levels from previous Bug Bashes, we know how much our Windows Insiders love to Bug Bash alongside our Engineering Teams and for this one, we’ve extended it to cover two weekends to give our Insiders more opportunity to provide us feedback. We’ll publish some new quests as usual for this bug bash as well. We are also planning at least one webcast so we can all Bug Bash together (more details coming soon). Thank you to all the Insiders that have participated in the past and to those who will participate in this upcoming Bug Bash. Your feedback is *very* valuable to us and helps shape Windows 10!

Team Updates

We have gotten an outpouring of supportive mail and comments from you all on the stories of the people in the Insider Program. The most recent one by Callum Moffat one of our youngest and most passionate Insiders really struck a chord with us. We love hearing the stories behind the people sending us feedback, so if you would like to share yours, please let us know.

Thank you everyone and keep hustling,
Dona <3

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Withings Thermo Wireless Smart Thermometer – Deal Alert

With an exceedingly simple scan across the forehead, 16 infrared sensors take over 4,000 measurements to find the hottest point. It requires no contact with the skin, unlike traditional methods, making Thermo is the most sanitary way to take anyone’s temperature. Readings appear illuminated on the device, and if desired, will sync to your smartphone for tracking and much more. Its typical list price of $100 has been reduced 30% to $70. See the discounted Withings Thermo thermometer on Amazon.To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

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The mobile app gold rush may be over

messaging-apps Ten years ago, Apple announced the iPhone, which soon gave birth to the App Store and the resulting broader app ecosystem. That industry has now matured, having reached critical mass, according to a new report from Flurry out this morning. While there’s still some growth to be seen — app usage is up 11 percent over last year, for example — that growth is slowing. And many… Read More

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This $15 Apple Watch stand is clearly the best you can buy, end of discussion (AAPL)

apple watch old mac charging stand

For $15 on Amazon, you could do a lot worse than buying this Apple Watch stand, which looks like an original Apple Macintosh computer from 1984.

It’s called the W3 Stand from mobile accessories company, Elago.  

Even if you don’t own an Apple Watch, this would be a great gift for someone you know who has one. Hell, I’m getting one for my mother right now.

Check it out:

SEE ALSO: 14 ways you can control your home with your voice using Amazon’s Echo and Alexa

This is the W3 Stand for Apple Watch by mobile accessory company Elago, which fits the Apple Watch’s nightstand mode perfectly.

It looks nearly identical to the original Apple Macintosh computer that was released back in 1984. Unlike the original Macintosh, the W3 is compatible with all models of the Apple Watch.

It has the floppy drive on the right, just like the original Macintosh, but a tiny replica keyboard and mouse are not included, unfortunately. 

Still, you can do a lot more with the Apple Watch in the stand than you could with the original Macintosh computer, which had 128 kilobytes of RAM, or 0.125 megabytes. To put things into perspective, four gigabytes is standard now. 

There’s a recessed port inside the stand to house your Apple Watch charger.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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This space mission could save Earth from killer asteroids — but NASA keeps hitting the snooze button

neocam asteroid hunter spacecraft discovery nasa jpl caltech

On January 4, NASA announced two new space missions to explore the solar system: Lucy, a probe that will visit swarms of ancient asteroids lurking near Jupiter, and Psyche, which will orbit the all-metal core of a dead planet.

These winners of the Discovery program, as it’s known, will each get $450 million to build their robots, plus a rocket to launch them.

“This is what Discovery Program missions are all about — boldly going to places we’ve never been to enable groundbreaking science,” Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a Jan. 4 press release.

But in a pile of rejected finalists, sitting alongside two conceptual missions to Venus, is a space telescope that might one day save countless lives on Earth from a killer asteroid: a threat Zurbuchen himself has said is “not a matter of if — but when.”

It’s called the Near-Earth Objects Camera, or NEOCam, and it promises to discover tens of thousands of rogue space rocks roughly 460 feet (140 meters) in diameter or bigger. That size is by design: Congress passed a law in 2005 charging NASA — as one of its seven explicitly stated goals — to find 90% of such near-Earth objects (NEOs) by 2020.

The reason is because asteroids and comets of this size are notoriously difficult to detect, yet can slug our planet or explode in our atmosphere with the energy of least 60 megatons’ worth of TNT. That’s more powerful than the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated.

“You do that over a city, and it’s a very, very bad day,” Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute and a scientist on the NEOCam team, told Business Insider. “It’s important to look at your neighborhood, from a planetary defense standpoint.”

While NASA did commit to partially fund NEOCam for a year, it’s effectively the space agency’s third pass on launching the telescope in a decade. (The mission was submitted in two previous rounds of Discovery.)

Meanwhile, NASA is running years behind its Congressional mandate to find NEOs, and Earth is mostly blind to threats that might one day level a city.

Just this past Monday, for instance, an asteroid possibly as large as a 10-story building flew past Earth closer than the moon at 9.8 miles per second (15.7 kilometers per second) — and yet astronomers only learned of its existence 2 days beforehand.

We live on a moving target for killer space rocks

near earth asteroid 1950 da nasa jpl

Astronomers like to say Earth is drifting through a cosmic shooting gallery.

It’s no wonder why.

Any space rock that zooms within 125 million miles (200 million kilometers) of Earth is considered an NEO, and — so far — humanity has located about 15,500 such objects. Relative to Earth, the average one is about 30 million miles (50 million kilometers) away and moving between 27,000 mph (12 kilometers per second) and 45,000 mph (20 kilometers per second) — akin to flying the length of Manhattan once a second.

About 9% of these NEOs, or some 1,759 space rocks, are called “potentially hazardous” objects (PHOs), meaning they come within 4.6 million miles (7.48 million kilometers) of Earth.

Their sizes vary wildly, so a strike could mean anything from broken windows, like the 2013 asteroid-caused air burst over Chelyabinsk, Russia, to global extinction, like the impact that helped wipe out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

The animation below, by Scott Manley, shows what the playing field looks like these days, and it is not comforting. Planets are teal (Earth is the third one from center), yellow and red show NEOs (red means they cross Earth’s orbit), and green shows more distant, main-belt asteroids:

But these are just the ones we know about.

Roughly 72% of all NEOs that are 460 feet (140 meters) or larger have not been found, according to the “National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy“, a report published by the White House’s National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) in December 2016. This amounts to about 25,000 nearby asteroids and roughly 2,300 hazardous ones.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be worried about smaller space rocks, though; in fact, quite the opposite.

“An asteroid much smaller, just 45 meters [150 feet] across, exploded in 1908 over Tunguska with an explosive energy of several megatons and destroyed an area as large as New York City,” Roger Blandford, a physicist at Stanford University, wrote in a September 2015 op-ed for Space News. “Congress calls these smaller asteroids ‘city killers,’ and although they are 30 times more numerous, we have located less than 1% of them.”

In raw numbers, “over 300,000 objects greater than 40 meters [130 feet] in size could be an impact hazard to the Earth and have not yet been detected,” according to NSTC’s report.

The chart below, recently created by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech, sums up the gaping holes (in green) of NEO survey efforts thus far:

near earth asteroid census chart graphic wise nasa jpl

Tunguska event-like asteroids strike Earth about once every 100-200 years, and Chelyabinsk explosions should occur as much as once a decade, according to a 2013 study in Nature.

Which is why scientists Sykes desperately want to find and, if necessary, deflect or destroy these rogue space rocks.

“There’s nothing out there that is anywhere near ready to [detect asteroids], except for NEOCam,” Sykes said.

How NEOCam could help save Earth

asteroids asteroid field star nasa jpl 717846main_pia16610_full

If you’re a space rock, you reflect sunlight. Telescopes that are looking in the right place at the right time can see you as a dot sneaking across the blackness of space, allowing scientists to calculate your mass, speed, orbit, and the odds that you’ll smack into Earth.

If you’re a small NEO, though, you aren’t very bright. This means a telescope has to be very big and use very advanced hardware to find you — but big, bad telescopes are expensive and take a very long time to build and calibrate.

Take the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), for example, which is one of Earth’s best current hopes of finding killer asteroids. The project broke ground in 2015 and is expected to cost upwards of $465 million to build. Based on its current construction schedule, it won’t be fully operational until late 2021, at the soonest, or able to fulfill the 90% detection goal set by Congress until the mid-2030s — more than a decade behind-schedule.

LSST, like all ground-based observatories, also comes with two major limitations.

The first: “You can’t see asteroids near the sun. You’re blinded by the sky,” Sykes said. “Right now we have to wait until those pop out in front of us. To get those guys, you really need to be in space — where you’re not blinded by the sky.”

Sykes said the other snag is that ground-based telescopes mainly rely on visible light for detection.

“If [an asteroid] has a dark surface, it’s going to be very hard to see,” he said.

neocam infrared camera sensor teledyne

NEOCam goes after these two problems by being in space, where no atmospheric gases get in the way, and by using an advanced, high-resolution infrared (IR) camera.

IR light is a longer wavelength of light that’s invisible to our eyes, but if a source is strong enough — say, a roaring fire — we can feel it as warmth on our skin.

Sun-warmed asteroids emit infrared light, even when they’re coasting through the void, or are too dark for ground-based telescopes to see. Which means NEOCam could spot them by their heat signatures.

The approach works. The prime example is NASA’s 8-year-old Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope, which has found at least 230 NEOs and 42 PHOs from orbit.

However, it’s a less powerful telescope, has a smaller field of view, an older camera that requires cryogenic cooling (NEOCam’s does not), and wasn’t designed solely to hunt asteroids. While scientists gave it a new mission to do so in 2013, renaming the project NEOWISE, the telescope is scheduled to end operations in March 2017.

“[A] space-based observatory, working in concert with observations from ground-based telescopes, may be the best approach to detecting, tracking, and characterizing the NEO population,” the NSTC’s December 2016 report states. “This combination would more rapidly complete the survey of objects larger than 140 meters [460 feet] while greatly improving our understanding of the hazard from the 50-140 meter [160-460 feet] NEO population.”

The NEOCam team proposed to launch in 2021 and find two-thirds of missing objects in the larger-than-460-feet (140 meters) category within 4 years — about a decade ahead of LSST’s schedule.

This would help address the NSTC’s concern on the issue:

“Finding NEOs as early as possible is the first priority for planetary defense, in order to give adequate time to make decisions and implement courses of action. This fact must be stressed: the earlier a NEO threat is detected, the better the emergency response to the threat will be.”

So if launching a capable replacement for NEOWISE is a priority, why didn’t NASA pick it?

The forces keeping NEOCam grounded

near earth object asteroids neos nasa m15 091b

Only NASA knows why it didn’t pick NEOCam for launch, but it isn’t telling anyone, not even Sykes and his colleagues — at least not yet.

The space agency first wants to debrief the NEOCam team on the snags it saw with of its Discovery program proposal, a meeting that a NASA representative said will happen as early as next week.

“The Discovery review process identified strengths and weaknesses for all 5 mission proposals. As with Lucy and Psyche, NEOCam will be asked to address any issues that were raised in the review,” David Schurr, deputy director of NASA’s planetary science program, told Business Insider in an emailed statement.

During NEOCam’s debriefing, the space agency will “work and negotiate with the […] team” on a funding level for the next year, Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division, told reporters during a Jan. 4 NASA teleconference.

“Whether it’s a drip or a flood, we’ll find out soon,” Sykes said.

After that year of funding runs out, however, all bets are currently off: NASA will have to “look for money” under a new presidential administration, according to Green, if it wants to keep the project alive. (“No flow, no go,” Sykes said.)

The hangup with NEOCam is not likely any lack of engineering prowess — “the rumor is that there were no major weaknesses [with the proposal],” one source who asked not to be named told Business Insider — but rather a bureaucratic technicality: a case of trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.

psyche asteroid nasa discovery mission linda elkins tanton youtubeThat’s because the mandate of NASA’s Discovery program is to pull off scientific “firsts” in the solar system.

An unprecedented mission to the metal core of a dead planet fits the bill, while a space-based asteroid detector is something humanity already tried with WISE (the NEO hunter launched in 2009).

But Sykes contends that NEOCam is a truly unique mission that could help NASA pull off its next planned era of crewed exploration — to near-Earth asteroids — by locating most of the remaining NEOs of interest.

“If we want to send people beyond low-Earth orbit, an asteroid costs much less than the surface of the moon or Mars,” Sykes said. “We can identify targets that are quick-turnaround times of weeks or months, to minimize the radiation exposure [in deep space] to astronauts.”

In addition, Sykes said, finding perhaps tens of thousands of new NEOs would lay more groundwork for efforts to mine asteroids for precious metals, gather fuel for deep-space exploration, and other novel (and scientific) human endeavors.

Former astronaut Ed Lu, who’s also a co-founder of the B612 Foundation — a group dedicated to launching its own NEO-detecting space telescope, called Sentinel — has grown impatient with the delays.

To get an asteroid hunter off the ground, Lu said, NASA needs to try something new, and fast.

“[T]here should be an open competition based on a planetary defense rather than a science requirement, as with the Discovery mission,” Lu told Business Insider in an email. “Detecting dangerous asteroids is a concern of national security, not just science.”

Blandford, the Stanford physicist, hit this message home in his Space News op-ed.

“[P]lanetary defense is currently treated as a scientific issue, and forced to compete with other science missions,” he wrote, “instead of being seen as a long-term imperative for the protection of humanity.”

Kelly Dickerson and Paul Szoldra contributed to this post.

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