Google Helpouts Lets You Buy Face Time with Experts

What’s your first instinct when trying to answer a question or solve a problem? You Google it. But sometimes that isn’t enough. That’s why the search giant is rolling out Google Helpouts, offering face-to-face tutorials and advice via video chats. 

Helpouts are video calls powered by Google+ Hangouts that involve experts selling their services in various areas of expertise. As of now these categories include Home & Garden, Computer & Electronics, Cooking& Education, Health & Counseling, Nutrition & Fitness, Fashion & Beauty and Art & Music.  The service is currently being tested, but Google said it’s inviting “people with expertise across a number of topics” to offer their input. [READ MORE]

Rackspace helps school Congress on copyright and open source


Five technology companies, Rackspace and Indiegogo among them, took to Capitol Hill on Thursday to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee about the importance of technology to innovation. The hearing, in front of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, followed one last week by a group of copyright holders and their industry organizations. Amid a sea of feel-good talk about the benefits of open source, Rackspace VP of Intellectual Property Van Lindberg made some really good points about the drawbacks of current copyright law.

Believe it or not: People fake copyright claims

The core of his argument is that, although the Digital Millennium Copyright Act might be fair, it’s also very prone to abuse. Lindberg specifically cited the abuses that come from computer systems programmed to recognize a copyright holder’s content and automatically send DMCA takedown notices. He noted how one Rackspace customer, a…

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XKeyscore program indexes everyday internet activities, Snowden documents show


The Guardian has published a detailed look at XKeyscore, one of the key systems used by the NSA and its intelligence partners to suck in and search through people’s internet activities.

XKeyscore has previously been outlined in Brazil’s O Globo (in an article co-authored by Glenn Greenwald, who also wrote today’s Guardian piece) and Germany’s Der Spiegel, but the new article comes with a full look at a 2008 XKeyscore presentation leaked by Edward Snowden.

“Rolling buffer”

XKeyscore appears to take in a vast amount of data on a pretty indiscriminate basis and store it in a “rolling buffer” of around 3 days, unfiltered — this means intelligence analysts can query XKeyscore for full content retrospectively, to a certain extent. Metadata, which helps narrow down searches (we’re talking about a lot of data here) gets stored for 30 days, or at least it was back in 2008.


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Pinterest’s Mobile App Gets Path-Like Animations, Personalization Options Via New Pin Suggestions


Say what you want about Path and their previous transgressions, but it’s great to see other mobile applications borrowing the interface and animations Path popularized through its stellar design. Tumblr was one of the first big name apps to adopt Path-like pop-out animations (round circles that appear when tapping to create a new post), and now, Pinterest is doing the same in an effort to make repinning, favoriting, and sharing pins easier for users.

In an update to its iOS application, Pinterest has introduced a new interface design where users can press and hold on a pin in their feed, in order to make rounded action buttons appear. However, unlike on Path or Tumblr, Pinterest’s buttons don’t stay visible after you lift your finger – instead you have to slide your finger from where you originally pressed the pin, over to the button you want to use.

Unfortunately, these new…

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Google Fiber, net neutrality & the regulatory challenges in the age of gigabit broadband


Google Fiber, the gigabit network that is live in Provo Utah and parts of Kansas City is facing its first big debate over network neutrality — it’s like a rite of passage for ISPs. As Wired reported on Tuesday, a Lawrence, Kansas resident filed a complaint with the FCC over Google’s terms of service, arguing that because Google prevented people from attaching servers to their fiber lines, Google was violating network neutrality rules.

The FCC deemed the complaint informal and passed it along to Google. Google’s defense in this matter was fourfold:

  1. Douglas McClendon, the man who filed the complaint, isn’t even a customer of Google Fiber and didn’t even live in an area the company served;
  2. Google prevents customers from operating servers on its network because Google Fiber is a residential and not business class service;
  3. The terms of service don’t violate network neutrality rules because preventing business users…

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Facebook Announces New Mobile Game Publishing Effort


A few weeks ago, we reported that Facebook was experimenting with becoming a mobile games publisher by offering distribution to studios in exchange for a cut of revenue.

Today, Facebook is formally announcing that effort at the Casual Connect conference in San Francisco, and they’re putting a call out for developers that are looking to participate. They didn’t disclose the revenue share they’re asking for.

The company says its publishing experiment is “a new pilot program to help small and medium-sized developers take their mobile games global.” The thinking is that it’s become prohibitively expensive for new mobile developers to find an audience, as the top grossing charts have become a lot more stable over the last year. With more than 800 million mobile users every month and more than 260 million people playing games on Facebook, the company says it’s in a unique position to help developers target high-quality…

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The Transit App Launches On Android, Will Find Out If Users Need A Tool Beyond Google Mapst


Montreal-based startup The Transit App is expanding its mobile domain after a strong showing at the Founder Fuel demo day earlier this month. The app offers real-time transit directions, notifications and route planning, and on Android brings most of the features from its iOS counterpart to devices running Google’s mobile OS, with full feature parity planned to arrive in earnest.

The Transit App offers a great experience for regular commuters looking to check schedules and stops for their regular and nearby bus and subway stops in major cities around the world that support open-data initiatives. Transit App founder Sam Vermette explained in an interview that more and more companies are realizing the benefits of making that data public, since it means outside sources can help them develop insight on what needs changing with their own transit systems. Mexico City and Paris have recently opened up their data, which enabled…

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Unikey’s Kevo Smart Lock Uses Bluetooth 4.0 To Let You Unlock Your Door By Touching It


NFC-powered door locks are already a thing, allowing owners of compatible smartphones (or NFC rings) to get into their houses with a tap of their gadgets. But NFC is not the only transfer tech capable of powering a smart lock (plus, if you have to dig your NFC phone out of your bag, that’s not necessarily much quicker than using a traditional key). Well, Unikey has come up with a smart lock system that uses Bluetooth 4.0 to turn compatible smartphones into proximity-sensitive keys.

Their version of the smart lock — called Kevo — doesn’t require the phone to be tapped to the lock. Rather the phone-owner only needs to touch the lock with their finger to gain entry. The crowdfunded Lockitron smart lock also uses Bluetooth 4.0 — but that device is also continually connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi, allowing owners to lock or unlock their doors…

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Games Monetization Platform Playhaven Gets Into Handling Push Notifications


Playhaven, which works with mobile game developers to maximize the amount of revenue they earn from their players, is getting into push notifications.

Push notifications, or those little pop-ups or messages you get from games while you’re not actively playing them, are an important tool that studios use to keep their players engaged long after they’ve initially installed the game. They’re sometime egregiously used by studios that want to keep their players coming back to water virtual crops or defend from attacks. But when used in a targeted way, they can be quite powerful.

Playhaven says its messaging service lets developers target their users on about 11 different parameters from the time they last played the game to how much they’ve spent to their location and type of device.

“You can get as specific as you want,” said CEO Andy Yang. “You can reach people who have spent more…

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Cord Cutters: A first look at Google’s Chromecast video streaming adapter

Another great piece of innovation from Google


Google’s new Chromecast promises to beam videos straight from your tablet, phone or laptop to your TV. Check out this episode of Cord Cutters for some first impressions.

Show notes for this episode:

  • Chromecast is available online for $35. Find out more about the device on the Chromecast website.
  • It looks like the Netfix(s nflx) promotion mentioned in our video isn’t available anymore.
  • Chromecast currently supports streaming from Netflix, YouTube(s goog), Google Play and Pandora, but others have announced…

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Irish Data Protection Agency Smiles On Apple, Facebook Prism Compliance


The Irish Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) has responded to two of the complaints filed last month by the European data protection activists behind the Europe v Facebook (evf) campaign group against several U.S. technology companies for alleged collaboration with the NSA’s Prism data collection program. Responding specifically to complaints against Apple and Facebook, the ODPC basically takes the view that there’s no complaint to answer, owing to a prior ‘Safe Harbor’ agreement between the E.U. and the U.S. which it says governs the transfer of personal data in this instance.

evf had been aiming to gain clarity on what it argued were potentially conflicting legal requirements, whereby — owing to their corporate structure — the companies in question may have been unable to comply with both European privacy laws and U.S. surveillance laws. However, in a letter (reproduced here) responding to evf’s complaints, the ODPC takes the view…

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 25, 2013

Bill Mullins' Weblog - Tech Thoughts

Congress nearly shuts down NSA phone dragnet, in sudden 205-217 vote – “While ultimately not successful, this vote showed that more than 200 members of Congress—including the author of the Patriot Act—oppose these programs,” said David Segal of Demand Progress in an e-mailed statement. “These programs barely survived after a full court lobbying campaign by the White House, the Intelligence community, and the NSA proper. Today’s vote shows that the tide is turning.” “This is a great first step. It’s the best vote we’ve ever had on the Patriot Act,” an ACLU lobbyist told The Guardian. It was a “sea change” in how Congress views bulk surveillance, she said, and it will at least force more privacy protections into a forthcoming intelligence authorization bill.

Feds put heat on Web firms for master encryption keys – Whether the FBI and NSA have the legal authority to obtain the master keys that…

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Geeksphone Announces Its First Consumer-Focused Firefox Smartphone, Mid-Range Peak+ Preorders Kick Off At $196


Spanish open hardware phone platform manufacturer Geeksphone, which created the first developer preview devices for Mozilla’s Firefox OS (aka Peak and Keon), has announced it’s now taking pre-orders for a new beefed up consumer version of its Peak smartphone that it’s called Peak+.

Geeksphone’s original two developer-focused devices sold out a few hours after going on sale — doubtless helped by their low prices of $194 and $119 respectively. The Peak+ looks likely to garner similar levels of demand, thanks to a similarly low pre-order price, although there is now more competition for Firefox devices — with Telefonica selling the ZTE Open in Spain (and elsewhere) for as little as €69/$90. (Albeit, the more expensive Peak+ does offer beefier, mid-range specs vs the very budget ZTE Open.)

Geeksphone has created a pre-sale reservation list for consumers wanting to buy the device for a “one-time, limited promotional price” of €149/$196 (excluding taxes)…

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Business Messaging Startup Moped Adds Mac Desktop App To Its Arsenal


Moped, a startup based out of Berlin, is an app and platform that lets you send IM-like private messages which allows for photos, maps, you name it. It’s simpler than using an app like GroupMe for privately sharing in groups. It’s also integrated with Dropbox. The startup has now pivoted towards the business/enterprise and today launches – alongside it’s iOS and Android apps – a Mac desktop app you can download here.

This makes sense because while consumers are mobile, workers spend a a lot of time in the office. The mac desktop app simplifies the experience down to focus on private individual or group messaging. It also integrates Dropbox’s file chooser directly into the apps so you can access all your stuff from within Moped. (iPhone only today, coming to our other apps soon.)

You can now browse your entire Dropbox from inside Moped’s iPhone app, so…

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