All posts in “Software”

BlackBerry’s KEYone ‘Black Edition’ offers more than just good looks

BlackBerry’s most interesting phone in years – if not an entire decade – is the KEYone, an Android device with a classic BlackBerry hardware keyboard that finally answers the needs of truly dedicated thumb typists with a modern mobile OS. Now, the KEYone ‘Black Edition’ has arrived, and it’s more than just a fresh coat of paint on an older gadget.

In fact, the ‘Black Edition’ doubles the internal storage of the KEYone, from 32GB up to 64GB (and it retains its expandable memory capability via microSD) – plus, it boosts RAM up to 4GB, which is a very welcome change from the 3GB on the original, if only because the one complaint I had about the original KEYone was that it could feel a bit pokey in places in terms of the speed of elements of the OS and some aspects of a few applications.

The ‘Black Edition’ feels speedier in all regards, after a few days of testing, and still retains all the charm of the original. The all-black design feels a bit less retro, but on the whole is probably a more appealing look for a larger segment of the population vs. the dual-tone silver and black of the original. And the phone benefits from months of production of the KEYone by TCL, which should mean it’s got less in the way of manufacturing quirks.

Basically, this is the current best BlackBerry you can buy, and it’s actually up there in terms of the top Android device options – for a certain type of buyer. That is, if you value the physical keyboard, and the convenience that comes with having a whole lot of hardware shortcuts for apps and actions at your fingertips, and you’re not as concerned about having a large, generous display for watching videos or other content, this is probably right up your alley.

The ‘Black Edition’ KEYone also has that assignable dedicated hardware button on the side, which is far more useful than the Note 8’s Bixby button, and the keyboard doubles as a trackpad for scrolling and other features which keep the display free of obfuscation while browsing Twitter and reading documents.

BlackBerry’s ‘Black Edition’ KEYone went on sale this week in Canada at Amazon, Telus and Walmart for $799.99 off contract.

The sorrow of Biz Stone

A friend of mine wakes up every morning and reports every single instance of crass, homophobic, and racist behavior she sees on Twitter. She sees it as her duty, an ordering of things in an unordered stream. Her efforts are quixotic at best because when she wakes up and rubs the sleep out of her eyes the firehose still rages.

Why does she have to do this? Because of Twitter’s success and its dedication to a certain post-dot-com style of openness. While for most of us Twitter is either an afterthought or an innocuous pastime, for many, including activists, game designers, and folks who are trying to do good (or bad) in the world it is a platform and a source for input and discussion. And then there’s the Nazis.

I’ve been following the rise of social media for most of a decade and I was angry – but not surprised – when most social media services actively shut down erotic images a few years ago even as they simply accepted all other content without comment. This results in a lot of dross, some news, some violence, and then a little bit of life-changing rhetoric. In short, social media has become the town square we dreamt it to be but it is regularly overwhelmed by hate, fear, and anger. It’s not a fun place nor is the discourse that appears there useful politically, mentally, or socially. Instead of bringing us together it gives us the opportunity to mouth off to John Stamos or post a picture of our cats.

It is obviously in Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook’s best interest to keep the kids from seeing boobs but where does that interest in public comfort stop? At what point does the freedom of social media begin eating its own tail? How responsible is Twitter for the things that appear on Twitter? If we’re measuring from some esoteric vision of absolute freedom (except for boobs) then Twitter and Facebook shouldn’t be policed at all. The invisible hand of human intellect will guide us to a utopian outcome. If we’re measuring from some esoteric vision of a perfect community (except for boobs) then Twitter and Facebook should ratchet up the ban hammer immediately. Unfortunately we have to live in a very real middle ground.

Twitter, we hope, is trying. But they need to try harder. I point to this exchange on Twitter. Mike Monteiro, an SF-based designer, who proposed speaking with Biz Stone about banning Trump.

You see what he’s saying. “Let’s talk. Let’s figure this out. But our sense of kind discourse has been abused to the point of breakage. Our sense of argument is now honed by a rough stone. We now react viscerally instead of consciously. So instead of saying “I’d encourage that sort of dialogue” or simply shutting up, Stone replied:

It’s the old “Don’t blame us, we just work here” routine. And trust me I know how Stone feels. The free-speech journalist in me says this is a bad idea – Trumps’s message will find a way out and, thanks to what amounts as a media freeze-out, Twitter is his only outlet. But the guy who doesn’t want to die in a nuclear inferno says, “Yeah, let’s maybe give him his own website and let him try to get his traffic numbers up like all the rest of us.”

Ultimately this is about responsibility. But I feel that folks like Biz and Zuck and Systrom owe it to humanity to police their worlds in the same way Disney polices Disney World: all are welcome, but the instant you get out of line you’re toast. What this line is abundantly clear at Disney World – don’t punch Donald – but it is not so clear online. Biz is defensive here for good reason: he’s painted into a corner. He can’t ban Trump lest his business goes under and by refusing to ban Trump he must also allow other forms of worse speech to find root on the service. There are other outlets, to be sure, but nothing has quite the gravitas of a Tweet.

If work is being done why does my friend still have to wake up, day after day, and call out hatred. She doesn’t have to slap down racists in the Walgreens so what does she have to do it on Twitter? Don’t give me the old “there’s too much data” argument. There are machines that scour that data for advertising opportunities. Those same spiders should sink their teeth into bad actors as well.

Ultimately social media has to be a free-for-all or it’s a walled garden. It was dreamt as a happy place where we could all share our thoughts but has instead turned into scrimmage where a certain subset of the population gangs up on an other subset and where a ban-first-ask-questions-later policy would make things hard to monetize. Ultimately, these first iterations of social media will go away, to be replaced by a more personal and usable system of conversation but until then, can we at least get the Nazis off Twitter?

Delta to offer free in-flight use of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage

Starting October 1, passengers on most Delta will have free access to WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage. To access the feature, a passenger will have to log into Delta’s in-flight wifi portal powered by Gogo. This is first time an airline has offered such a service throughout its fleet.

Traditional SMS messages will not work. Only the aforementioned mobile messaging services are supported at launch and users will not be able to send videos or pictures. Passengers are, thankfully, not able to use this service to live stream from their flight.

I fly a lot and this is a significant free service to me. Over countless flights, I purchased a costly Gogo internet package just to use iMessage. Most of the time in a flight I don’t want to check my email or Slack or Twitter. When flying I want some me time, but sometimes, it’s also nice to just chat with some friends and now that can be done for free.

Even before this, there was some hacks and workarounds to let users access these services without paying. Not that I’m the sort of guy to exploit such loopholes.

Researchers find that Twitter bots can be used for good

According to Emilio Ferrara, a USC Information Sciences Institute researcher, not all Twitter bots are born bad. He should know. Ferrara created a “large-scale experiment designed to analyze the spread of information on social networks” and found that “good” tweets spread just as quickly as bad tweets. Further, they confirmed something the we already know: that information goes viral when we see it “multiple times through multiple sources.”

In other words, if you don’t want to spread the news don’t interact with it. But, if you see news from multiple sources at the same time, you’re far more likely to begin clicking the like button and the news becomes part of your worldview.

“We found that bots can be used to run interventions on social media that trigger or foster good behaviors,” said Ferrara. “This milestone shatters a long-held belief that ideas spread like an infectious disease, or contagion, with each exposure resulting in the same probability of infection. Now we have seen empirically that when you are exposed to a given piece of information multiple times, your chances of adopting this information increase every time.”

Ferrara created a bot that tweeted out a set of health tips and fun life hacks to 25,000 real people using 39 bots. The team measured interaction with the bots and saw how the information began to become part of the user’s experience.

“We also saw that every exposure increased the probability of adoption – there is a cumulative reinforcement effect,” said Ferrara. “It seems there are some cognitive mechanisms that reinforce your likelihood to believe in or adopt a piece of information when it is validated by multiple sources in your social network.”

This helps explain why we are skeptical about a single movie recommendation, for example, but change our minds when we see multiple positive descriptions of a movie from multiple sources.

The bottom line? Bots work.

“The common approach is to have one broadcasting entity with many followers, but this study implies that it would be more effective to have multiple, decentralized bots share synchronized content,” he said. He proposed that organizations like the CDC use botnets to send information multiple times from multiple sources to increase the likelihood of adoption.

So if Twitter is casting you down into a deep pit of despair maybe all we need are a few botnets more tweets like this one?

Featured Image: Kevin Smart/Getty Images

This could be the Google Home Mini

There have been rumors for weeks about Google nearing the release of a smaller version of the Google Home. DroidLife just posted what it claims is the upcoming Google Home Mini.

If true, the design speaks the same language of the Google Home. The little puck uses the same cloth covering found on larger version. Gone are the multi-colored lights, replaced by four soft-white lights on top of the device. And just like the Google Home, Google Assistant is built-in, ready to do its owner’s bidding.

DroidLife says it will cost $49 when released, putting it at the same price point of the Amazon Echo Dot though it’s not known if the Home Mini has a 3.5mm output like its Echo counterpart.