Friday, June 28, 2013

Doink the Clown

Pro Wrestler Dies at 55 Ex-WWE star Doink the Clown -- a hugely popular wrestler in the '90s -- was found dead today in Texas. Doink, real name Matt Osborne, was known for pulling pranks on the other wrestlers ... all while decked out in full greasepaint and a green wig. Details about Doink's death are unclear at this point -- but his girlfriend reportedly found him dead in her home ... where he'd been staying lately. After leaving the WWE, he continued wrestling for ECW and independent leagues ... still sporting the clown costume. More recently, he's been attending wrestling conventions and doing autograph sessions with fans. Doink was 55. Read more: http://www.tmz.com#ixzz2XY4Y2nQz

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Google

Google gooses Chrome with network speed-boost idea: 'QUIC' Trying to cut Net communication delays, Google has begun testing a new technology called QUIC that seeks to marry security, reliability, and performance. On the heels of its SPDY success for goosing Web communications standards, Google is tinkering with an even lower-level protocol with a project called QUIC. To see if the technology meets its potential without causing new problems, Google has built QUIC into developer versions of Chrome and enabled it for a fraction of users. The hope is that it will cut the round-trip time of the back-and-forth communications between computers on the Internet, according to a blog item posted Thursday by Google engineer Jim Roskind. "If we're able to identify clear performance wins, our hope is to collaborate with the rest of the community to develop the features and techniques of QUIC into network standards," Roskind said. SPDY is now well on its way to revising the HTTP standard, which governs how Web browsers communicate with the Web servers that house Web pages. Even Microsoft, an early skeptic, is on board with IE 11. Google has a powerful interest in a faster Internet. Lower delays mean Web pages and services respond faster, and that generally means people use the Internet more. That means, of course, that they use Google services more, especially search and its attendant search advertising. With a popular browser and popular Web sites, Google has the ability to run experiments that involve both ends of the network. Unlike SPDY, QUIC actually stands for something: Quick UDP Internet Connections. It offers an alternative to TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) one of the most fundamental parts of how data is transferred across the Internet. TCP's job is to make sure packets routed across the Internet really are delivered. It offers reliability, but at a price. Another fixture of Internet data transfer, UDP (User Datagram Protocol) is faster but doesn't offer TCP's error-checking reliability. QUIC is based on UDP but offers its own error-correction technology, Roskind said. Google couldn't build a whole new protocol, because network equipment on the Internet generally blocks any traffic that's not UDP or TCP, Google said. Thus, it recrafted UDP to get something that works on today's Internet. In addition, QUIC offers an encryption mechanism for security similar to the TLS standard used in encrypting Web site communications. Google built encryption into SPDY, too, something that caused indigestion for some companies running content delivery networks (CDNs) accustomed to serving as useful middlemen between origin servers and people's browsers. But Google believes it's necessary. "As we learned with SPDY and other protocols, if we don't encrypt the traffic, then middle boxes are guaranteed to (wittingly, or unwittingly) corrupt the transmissions when they try to 'helpfully' filter or 'improve' the traffic," Google's QUIC FAQ said. http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57591397-93/google-gooses-chrome-with-network-speed-boost-idea-quic/

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung has expanded its Galaxy S4 family of products to appeal to niche markets, but consumers will likely find trade-offs in certain specifications and functionality in these devices. The company has been touting the expanded family of Galaxy S smartphones for a couple of months now. But earlier this week, at its event in London, Samsung specifically talked up the three new additions to its Galaxy S4 family of devices. The new devices are meant to address niche markets. But in tailoring the devices for specific audiences, Samsung has diluted some of the core specifications that make the Samsung Galaxy S4 one of the most advanced smartphones on the market. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is a camera first but also happens to be a smartphone. The device is designed to provide shutterbugs with a much improved camera that offers a 10x optical zoom. But when it comes to the phone part of the device, it's definitely no Samsung Galaxy S4. CNET UK's Andrew Hoyle, who took a look at the device at the London event, said "its 4.3-inch, 960×540-pixel display and 1.5GHz dual-core processor are much less impressive specs than the standard Galaxy S4." The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is designed as a rugged version of the Galaxy S4. It's water resistant up to a depth of 1 meter, according to the company, and it's also sand and dust-proof, suggesting it's a perfect device to take to the beach. And really it's one of the more advanced and high-end smartphones in this rugged category. But is it really a GS4? Well, the name certainly indicates that it is, but some of the specs that make the Galaxy S4 a true high-end smartphone are missing in this device. For example, while the GS4 sports an impressive AMOLED display that produces really great colors, the GS4 Active has a less expensive LCD screen, which isn't as colorful and simply doesn't look as vibrant as AMOLED. The camera has also been downgraded. Instead of a 13 megapixel camera, such as the one on the flagship GS4, the GS4 Active's camera is only 8 megapixels. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is being called the little brother of the Galaxy S4. It's specifically meant to be smaller and less expensive than the Galaxy S4. And to be clear, it's not really targeted at the U.S. market. It's really meant to extend the GS4 brand to markets where phones are not generally subsidized by carriers. At any rate, it should come as little surprise that the specs on the GS4 Mini also don't match those of the bigger GS4. While it does sport a Super AMOLED display, it comes with a slower 1.7GHz dual-core processor, only 8GB of internal memory, and an 8-megapixel camera. I am not at all suggesting that the specs on these phones are not good enough for many users. They certainly are. And many consumers might never notice the difference. But the fact is that while the phones sport the Samsung Galaxy S4 name, they may not be all that similar to the flagship Galaxy S4, which could confuse or disappoint some consumers. The question then becomes if this might present a problem for Samsung in the future and possibly dilute the high-end brand it has spent years and millions of dollars building. "Samsung has to maintain some core 'Galaxy S' attributes in each branded product," said Avi Greengart, a market research analyst with Current Analysis. "And Samsung has to continue investing in advertising for the flagship Galaxy S." But Greengart said he isn't too worried Samsung will falter much here. And he seems to think the newly added devices in the Galaxy S family are good enough. Still, he warns that Samsung must still push hard in marketing the high-end Galaxy S4. "As long as Samsung does that and makes a desirable flagship, I'm not that concerned about brand dilution," he said. Samsung's marketing approach has long been to develop tons of products at different price points and throw them into the market to see what catches on. But with the Galaxy S series, the company seemed to take a cue from Apple. Unlike Samsung and many other device makers, Apple has been very focused on selling one smartphone per year. And it takes a very one-size-fits-all approach. Customers looking for less-expensive devices can purchase last year's model, which is always discounted when a new version is introduced. For the past few years, Samsung has fashioned its Galaxy S strategy to look more like Apple's approach. This isn't to say Samsung abandoned churning out plenty of other smartphones during this period. And in fact, it has also done well building another major high-end smartphone product brand, the Galaxy Note series. But when it comes to the Galaxy S series of smartphones, consumers around the globe, and especially among the four major wireless operators in the U.S., have had access to a single flagship device. And like Apple, Samsung has introduced these flagship devices once a year: the Galaxy S, which launched in 2010; the Galaxy S2, which came out in 2011; the Galaxy S3, which debuted in 2012; and now the Galaxy S4, which was launched earlier this year. Samsung has seen a good deal of success with this approach. And for the most part, it's handsets have been the biggest alternative to Apple's iPhone. But now Samsung is expanding the brand and going after specific niche markets. This might make sense, given the increasing competition in the high-end smartphone market. But as I've described above, it will force consumers to make choices and even some compromises. For instance, if you want a rugged phone, such as the Galaxy S4 Active, to meet your very active lifestyle, you won't be able to get the top-of-the-line specifications you'd get in the flagship Galaxy S4. The same is true of the Galaxy S4 Zoom. There is no question the camera is far superior to the flagship Galaxy S4's camera, and probably to many other smartphone cameras that rely on digital zoom instead of optical zoom. But a sacrifice must be made in terms of other aspects of the device. Of course, the reason Samsung is likely skimping on some aspects of these niche market devices is because the advanced features included in the Active and Zoom raise the price of the device. And in order to compete with a bevy of new devices that are hitting the market now and in the coming months, Samsung must keep its costs down and appeal to a wider array of consumers. In fact, analysts say Samsung will likely downgrade its sales forecast for the flagship Galaxy S4 for this quarter. Earlier this month, an analyst from JPMorgan said sales of the GS4 were "20-30 percent lower" than the firm had previously expected. And now there's talk that Samsung is going to cut production of the device and retire the previous model, the Samsung Galaxy S3, in order to not cannibalize sales of the flagship. Right now it's hard to say whether the niche products with less advanced specifications will help Samsung or not as it competes with the mighty iPhone and other devices. The market is certainly different than it was a year ago, with competitors such as the HTC One, the new BlackBerry 10 devices, and Nokia's latest Windows Phone device all hitting the market in recent months. Perhaps Samsung's approach is the right one to take: selling a device for every consumer. But there's a risk that these devices are just creating a noise in the market. And they could confuse consumers. It will be interesting to see what type of reception the spin-off Galaxy S4 smartphones get in the market. http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57590550-94/has-samsung-gone-too-niche-with-its-new-gs4-smartphones/

one

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Apple’s iOS 7

The new iOS 7 is radically simplified, incredibly flat, colorful, and multi-layered. It is, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, “the biggest change to iOS since iPhone.” And it may be one of the best things yet designed by Jony Ive, who announced iOS 7 in a short video at Apple’s World Wide Developer conference. Ive didn’t offer a blow-by-blow account of details; he remained seated in the audience next to Laurene Jobs. Instead, his video comments served up a succinct design philosophy: “There is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity. In clarity. In efficiency. True simplicity is derived from so much more than the absence of clutter and ornamentation. It’s about bringing order to complexity.” He could have said that in any of his videos about Apple’s hardware. But Ive was finally saying them about software, in his new role leading Apple’s interface design. Apple, in other words, is leaving behind iOS’s gaudy recent past in favor of the radical simplicity that made it the world’s most valuable company. Among the many features and UI ideas, the main design points were: –A revamped icon system, based on a grid that harmonizes the many tiles of the UI –Redesigned typography –A new color palette –Distinct functional layers for apps and navigation screens –Abundant use of translucency that creates hierarchy among layers –Animations that add depth and live information –A swipe-up control center for commonly used functions iO6’s fake wood, leather, and felt are dead. After Ive’s video was over, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, came on and declared, “We completely ran out of green felt! And wood. This has got to be good for the environment!” But Ive’s words were shorthand for a battle over design philosophy that’s been brewing ever since the very first Mac. iOS 7 is a recognition that Apple’s previous design languages couldn’t scale to the growth of the phone as a computing powerhouse. Let’s dig in. Why Apple made so much fake leather to begin with Skeuomorphism, which is simply an ornamental design meant to ape another material, has become a hip thing to hate. Just ask any number of designers who’ll tell you that the leather-bounded calendars and reel-to-reel tape-decks of iOS6 are tacky, garish, and trite. But skeuomorphism is really just the extreme manifestation of the root metaphors that are now embedded in all of our computer interactions. When you’re looking at computer windows that layer on top of each other like paper, you’re looking at metaphorical rules for how computer interactions should behave, drawn from the physical world. That particular problem of making interactive “layers”—when in fact they’re just new objects being redrawn side-by-side to look as if they’re layered—was one that Steve Jobs obsessed over during the creation of the first Mac OS. He knew that in order to teach people what a computer could do when no one had ever owned a computer before, he had to teach by analogy. You cannot create an intuitive computer interface without metaphors like these. Moreover, it’s almost impossible to explore computer metaphors without creating skeuomorphic flourishes to some degree or another. For example: What should the “trash bin” on your computer desktop look like? After all, it doesn’t really behave like a trash can. Should it look like a trash can? If not, what could it possibly look like while still being totally intuitive? If you can’t figure out a better answer than a trash can—and I bet you can’t—then you, my friend, are guilty of skeuomorphism. But to understand why all the ornamentation in iOS6 is sacrilege to so many designers, you need to know a little bit about how designers themselves think about their discipline. When you hear designers talking about “honesty” “integrity of materials” and even design as the process of “solving problems,” you’re hearing echos of the Bauhaus, the German design school where architects like Mies van der Rohe dreamed up the tenets of modern design almost 100 years ago. Perhaps the most important Bauhaus maxims of all are: 1. Form should follow function 2. Materials should be suited to the task they’ve been drafted for. Consider an enduring classic like the Marcel Breuer B33 chair, with its iconic cantilevered seat. Beuer designed that cantilever not just to be a showpiece, but to show what steel—and only steel—could do at that time. He didn’t filigree the metal to look like something else. He chromed it to emphasize that it was metal, rather than wood. That is the modernist tradition that industrial designers like Jony Ive live and breathe. Steve Jobs considered the Bauhaus one of his most important influences. So you can see why designers revolt when software metaphors get developed so far that they don’t actually add any additional functional benefit. But even skeuomorphism can be a boon. Many non-designers absolutely love the decorative flourishes of iOS6, precisely because they aren’t functional. Jobs knew the magical appeal of fakery from Apple’s earliest days, and so, in spite of his adoration of Bauhaus ideals, he aspired to “lickable” interfaces that immediately enchanted people with how lifelike they were. Skeuomorphism isn’t motivated by design decisions at all—but rather the magic of increasing screen resolutions. This was design in the service of salesmanship rather than function, which is great for selling computers and iPhones. The only problem with that is that hardware makers no longer need to impress people so much with how high-res their screens are—resolution has become a game of increments in the last ten years. Smartphone interfaces, meanwhile, must solve even greater problems. Apple’s early OS metaphors were meant to teach people how to use computers. Likewise, the skeuomorphism of Apple’s early iterations of iOS was intended to make touchscreens friendly, non-threatening, and familiar. The reason iOS has always been restrictive—with side-to-side scrolling as the only real overarching navigation—was to make the first touchscreens too simple not to understand. The problem now is that the iOS is no longer in the position of having to teach anyone about touchscreens. Even three-year-olds get them. The smartphone’s greatest problem today isn’t teaching people that there’s a virtual space for doing everyday tasks. Rather, it’s teaching people that they no longer have to use their computers anymore. The functions of phones themselves are growing even as the actual size of a phone screen is approaching its natural limit. Smart phones have, in many ways, exceeded the metaphors that used to define them. Thus, in order to do more complex interactions on the screens, and to keep those interactions uncluttered, you have to strip down the design language. This is what Ive means when he talks about “bringing order to complexity.” With iOS 7, the revamped look is the sexiest, most obvious declaration that something has changed. The new design is “unobtrusive and deferential” so that the UI “recedes, elevating your content”—rather than competing, for example, against the pictures you’re trying to get to on Facebook and Instagram. But the new design language also lies in service to iOS 7’s broad architectural and navigational changes, such as the layer of cards that allow you flip between browser windows and the tiles that allow you scan through apps. Without a simplified design language, that increased complexity would become a jumble; without a unified design language, it would be too easy to confuse some elements with the apps or websites themselves. Even a detail like the transparency that you see at work in iOS 7 helps to clarify the relationship between content and the contextual navigation that surrounds it. As Federighi, Apple’s software engineering SVP, put it, iOS 7 has “a look of precision and a sense of purpose” Ive, in his pitch for flatter design to his engineering cohort Apple, reportedly argued that skeuomorphism doesn’t stand the test of time. But he’s also hinting at the functionality of a next generation of phones—when they’ll have to actively manage a network of connected devices, including, even, your desktop. In fixing what was broken with iOS6, Ive has really laid down the path to its future as the most important cog in our digital life. Apple, in giving Ive the license to enact such far-reaching change, is doubling down on the modernist ideals that made the company insanely great. http://www.wired.com/design/2013/06/ios7_redesign/

Lauren D Marie

Sunday, June 9, 2013

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Goodbye, Room Service

The Hilton Midtown made headlines last week when the famed New York City hotel opted out of room service. Beginning in August, the 2,000-room establishment will cease all round-the-clock food and beverage delivery service. The hotel has said that the reason for the change is that fewer customers are taking advantage of the service. But industry experts have noted that there might be other reasons, such as the high cost of labor on a low-profit service. Travelers shouldn't let woes about low-profit food and beverage services distract them; the hospitality industry is doing just fine. According to the recently released 2013 HOST Almanac, which studied the income and expense statements of nearly 6,000 U.S. hotels, the industry had income of nearly $162 billion, with house profit of $58 billion and operating expenses of $40 billion. The average nightly rate per room in 2012 was $159.52, and each occupied room generated an average of $244.76 in total revenue for the hotel. No Soup for You! The elimination of room service from traditionally full-service hotels is not a new notion. At the 2010 Lodging Conference, a session entitled "Owners Talk About Operational Issues" was filled with hotel owners discussing how food and beverage service was a losing game. The ideas discussed ranged from eliminating room service to offering takeout instead of dining options to removing food and beverage services entirely. Over the past several years, hotel sundry closets have expanded to include more cafeteria-type items, with even luxury chains offering "grab-and-go" items. While the occasional room service splurge can be a delicious luxury, for families worried about their travel budget or those looking to get the most from their hotel stay, those overpriced meals are a poor choice. Far better to find a local grocery store or farmers' market and dine al fresco on the steps of a local attraction than shell out and dine from inside. Some Travelers Still Need In-Room Coffee With the rise of self-service hotels, nontraditional accommodations like house-swapping, Couchsurfing and Air B&B, or even the old-fashioned nightly rental ads in large urban areas on Craigslist, the full-service traditional hotel model itself is no longer the only option for leisure travelers, families, backpackers, or solo adventurers. But for business travelers, especially those for whom traveling is their business, the elimination of room service is alarming. Kat Von B, an undercover luxury hotel reviewer who goes by TravelingGreek on Twitter, says "All the hotels I stay at offer room service, an amenity I require. Usually, I am traveling on business and appreciate room service in the morning for coffee; sometimes if I've had a long day, I order in. It is a luxury that makes travel comfortable." Von B says she orders room service nearly every day, and coffee, at minimum, is essential before starting the day. More Green, Less Service Call it cost-cutting, call it a decline in consumer demand, call it an attempt to circumvent labor unions. Eliminating room service in favor of self-serve food options isn't the first time the hotel industry has instituted a wide-scale change. It was only a few years ago that hotels were asking customers to opt out of daily linen changes; now it's de rigueur. In some hotels, linens aren't changed unless a guest specifically asks. Like many so-called "green initiatives," the hotels claim it's for the environment, and there's no doubt that less laundry equals less water consumption. But the cost benefits are immense; when travelers select a hotel with so-called green features, they think they're helping save the planet, but they're actually also helping hotels save money. According to the Green Business Bureau, hotels with a recycling program save 50 percent on waste management; shampoo and soap dispensers save more than $16,600 per 100-room facility; vending machines with occupancy sensors save more than $400 a year; thermostat controls save 14 percent on energy bills; and a key card management system saves 25 percent on energy. With so many other ways available for hotels to cut costs, Von B warns against cutting something so visible. "Customer service is so important in the competitive hotel industry," she says. "Guests want more, expect more, and upscale properties need to realize that sophisticated travelers have options and will go elsewhere." http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/06/08/room-service-hotel-cost-cutting/

Soy Sauce Overdose Sends Man Into Coma

A young man who drank a quart of soy sauce went into a coma and nearly died from an excess of salt in his body, according to a recent case report. The 19-year-old, who drank the soy sauce after being dared by friends, is the first person known to have deliberately overdosed on such a high amount of salt and survived with no lasting neurological problems, according to the doctors in Virginia who reported his case. The case report was published online June 4 in the Journal of Emergency Medicine. Too much salt in the blood, a condition called hypernatremia, is usually seen in people with psychiatric conditions who develop a strong appetite for the condiment, said Dr. David J. Carlberg, who treated the young man and works as an emergency medicine physician at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Hypernatremia is dangerous because it causes the brain to lose water. When there is too much saltin the bloodstream, water moves out of the body tissues and into the blood by the process of osmosis, to try to equalize the salt concentration between the two. As water the leaves the brain, the organ can shrink and bleed, Carlberg said. After the man drank the soy sauce, he began twitching and having seizures, and the friends took him to an emergency room. That hospital administered anti-seizure medication, and he was already in a coma when he was taken to the hospital where Carlberg was working, the University of Virginia Medical Center, nearly four hours after the event. "He didn't respond to any of the stimuli that we gave him," Carlberg said. "He had some clonus, which is just elevated reflexes. It's a sign that basically the nervous system wasn't working very well." The team immediately began flushing the salt out of his system by administering a solution of water and the sugar dextrose through a nasal tube. When they placed the tube, streaks of brown material came out. Within a half hour, they pumped 1.5 gallons (6 liters) of sugar water into the man's body. The man's sodium levels returned to normal after about five hours. He remained in a coma for three days, but woke up on his own. For several days afterward, a part of his brain called the hippocampus showed residual effects from the seizures. But a month after the event, he showed no sign of the overdose: He was back at college, and doing well on his exams, doctors reported. A typical quart of soy sauce has more than 0.35 pounds (0.16 kilograms) of salt, the researchers said. Most cases of sodium overdose happen more gradually. In the 1960s and 1970s, doctors actually gave salt to patients suffering from poisoning, to initiate vomiting, until they realized its harmful effects. Though it's rare in the United States, consuming excess salt was a traditional method for suicide in ancient China, according to the case report. Carlberg said he believes the young man survived because the team got his sodium levels down so quickly. "We were more aggressive than had been reported before in terms of bringing his sodium back down to a safer range," Carlberg told LiveScience. Reducing sodium levels more slowly has had poor or mixed results in the past, he said. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/07/soy-sauce-overdose-coma-hypernatremia_n_3402726.html

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