Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An Apple Smart Home Could Be the Ultimate Kind of Lock-in

An Apple Smart Home Could Be the Ultimate Kind of Lock-in

An Apple Smart Home Could Be the Ultimate Kind of Lock-in

Posted: 27 May 2014 01:19 PM PDT

Let’s say, hypothetically, that you own an iPhone and want to switch to Android or Windows Phone. Doing so wouldn’t cost you much, if anything. Most of your favorite apps are probably free to download, your music catalog is easy enough to move around, and you can sync your contacts and calendar to Google or Outlook to break them free of Apple’s iCloud. The biggest loss would be the time it takes to complete the switch.

Now, imagine trying to leave Apple’s ecosystem when everything in your home — the lights, the locks, the thermostat, the garage door and even the coffee maker — are iPhone-controlled. Suddenly, the hundreds or thousands of dollars you’ve spent automating your house would be for nothing. You’ll have a wonderfully convenient set-up, but you’ll be stuck with it.

This scenario may not be hypothetical for much longer. Citing unnamed “people familiar with the matter,” Financial Times reports that Apple will announce a home automation platform at its Worldwide Developers Conference next week.

The platform will reportedly allow users to control many aspects of their homes through the iPhone and other iOS devices, in some cases automatically. For instance, the platform could reportedly detect when you’ve arrived at your house and connected to the home network, and turn on the downstairs lights.

While many companies have tried to solve home automation before, the market is currently a mess of competing standards, and disparate apps and devices that don’t easily talk to each other. And right now, there isn’t a single major computing platform that integrates home automation at the system level; if you have a Nest thermostat, you can’t just ask Siri to turn up the heat (at least not without some trickery).

If Financial Times’ report is correct, Apple would still let other companies build all the home automation pieces, such as the lights and the security systems, but iOS would be the glue holding everything together.

It’s not hard to see the appeal of such a system. Apple is known for making things easy to set up and use, so it could remove the hassles that have kept home automation out of the mainstream. People who own lots of iOS devices already could buy into this system knowing that everything is likely to work well. At the same time, home automation product makers could have a single, widely popular platform to target, with a common set of software tools to build around. Apple could then use its marketing prowess to get the word out about these products, and sell the best pieces through the Apple Store.

But as exciting as this sounds, it’s also a bit scary, because the more you invest in an iOS-only home automation system, the harder it may become to leave for another platform.

The idea of platform lock-in isn’t new, nor is it unique to Apple. Amazon, Google and Microsoft also dream of having customers who are unwilling or unable to move to competing platforms. But with home automation, the stakes are higher than ever because the hardware is so expensive. A smart thermostat costs $100. A single smart light bulb can cost around $30. A smart door lock can cost $200. You could easily spend over a thousand dollars turning your home into something out of the Jetsons, and the convenience may be totally worth the monetary cost.

But what happens if you decide the iPhone isn’t right for you anymore? Maybe you like the way Android handles notifications, or the way Windows Phone integrates with Xbox and Office. Perhaps you want a screen that’s bigger than anything Apple offers, or a phone with killer front-facing speakers. Only now, the decision to switch isn’t so simple. You’d better hope your home automation gear supports some other platforms, or else your expensive smart home investment could start to look pretty dumb.

Here Are 14 Songs Battling It Out For the Song of the Summer in 2014

Posted: 27 May 2014 01:00 PM PDT

According to the calendar — if not the weather — it is officially summer.

That means it’s time to don the white pants, slap on the Coppertone and find out which songs will be dominating radio from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Last year, it was a toss up between two ubiquitous hits: Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” But which song will be blasting on beaches, blaring at barbecues and playing at pool parties from coast to coast this summer? We have a few guesses, but want to hear from you, too. Vote in our poll (located at the bottom of this post) and help us divine this summer’s mega-hit.

Here are 14 songs vying for the title of Song of the Summer 2014:

Pharrell – “Come Get It Bae” [feat. Miley Cyrus]

The man behind two of last summer’s mega-hits —”Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky” — has a strong contender in this release from his album G I R L. It’s a funky follow-up to his omnipresent single “Happy,” which is still in the running for song of the summer status — even though it came out last year.

Iggy Azalea – “Fancy” [feat. Charli XCX]

It’s a boom-bastic, toe-tapping song that’s already everywhere, including Dancing with the Stars and Good Morning America, meaning that everyone’s mom will be ready to cut loose to it on the dance floor at summer weddings and bat mitzvahs. Featuring an infectious hook from Charli XCX (who helped pen Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” the track is already inspiring viral videos, a sure sign of a big hit.

DJ Snake and Lil Jon – “Turn Down For What”

While “Turn Down For What” was released at the end of 2013, the song screams summer anthem. The ode to party rocking is an undeniable force, still filling dance floors with trap beats and dance hooks months after it first dropped. Paired with a Daniels-directed video that manages to be both wildly inappropriate and yet completely appropriate (for the song, at least), expect the song to be featured on party playlists through Labor Day.

Ariana Grande – “Problem” [feat. Iggy Azalea]

This bubblegum summer anthem combines Grande’s Mariah Carey-lite vocals with the unlikely mash-up of a Jay Z-inspired title, En Vogue references, Big Sean vocals, Iggy Azalea’s rapping and a sexy sax solo the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the ’80s (or at least since “Mr. Saxobeat”). It’s a surprisingly winning combination that makes it a definite frontrunner in the race.

Rita Ora – “I Will Never Let You Down”

Rita Ora enters the race for song of summer with an assist from Calvin Harris, who adds some EDM-beats to the sumptuous pop love song. The summery number is the first single from her forthcoming album, which is rumored to feature production from Diplo and Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes as well as collaborations with both Prince and Macklemore. Watch out, summer 2015.

Nico & Vinz – “Am I Wrong”

This catchy song with a chilled-out vibe has been floating around for close to a year, but it may finally top the charts this summer when it soundtracks rooftop parties and backyard barbecues from Brooklyn to Bellingham. The hook-laden track by the Norwegian duo Nico & Vinz — Nico Sereba and Vincent Dery — makes it clear that Scandinavia’s pop dominance is unrivaled.

Ed Sheeran – “Sing”

While Sheeran is usually known for his morose pop songs, the singer-songwriter has teamed up with Pharrell Williams to create a surprisingly upbeat track — a bright pop number that has enough of a Justin Timberlake vibe to give it some edge and ensure that it will be blasting out of tweens’ iPods at pools across the country.

Sia – “Chandelier”

After helping David Guetta’s “Titanium” and Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones” climb the charts, with “Chandelier,” in-demand topliner Sia Furler finally has a hit song to call her own. The power ballad is an ode to sad girls everywhere who want to drown their sorrows in alcohol — or exorcise their demons by trying to recreate some of the dance moves from the song’s incredible video.

Sam Smith – “Safe With Me”

The 22-year-old English export is featured on two other songs on the charts: Naughty Boy’s “La La La” and Disclosure’s “Latch.” If those songs don’t trample the summer competition, “Safe With Me” is an excellent gospel-laden back-up plan. Smith’s album In The Lonely Hour is due out in the U.S. on June 17th, so there may be another contender waiting to spring into the charts.

Betty Who – “Somebody Loves You”

Even though Betty Who’s Slow Dancing EP was packed with synth-tastic, dance-ready tracks, her breakout track “Somebody Loves You” — which is now well over a year old — still stood out as a sizzling, sparkling sensation. When it hits radio, if all is right in the world, it will explode onto playlists and dance floors.

5 Seconds of Summer – “She Looks So Perfect”

Australia’s answer to The Wanted created a song meant for blasting out the speakers on a T-Top Camaro while cruising on a summer night. With boy-bandish good looks, charming songs and power pop licks, 5 Seconds of Summer could last all year round.

Calvin Harris – “Summer”

It feels like cheating to call your song “Summer,” but the warm weather vibes in the Scottish singer/producer’s song are undeniable. Filled with Harris’ giant synth hooks and big, big beats, “Summer” feels unstoppable.

Paramore – “Ain’t It Fun”

Paramore’s pop song seems to be crafted for singing along with five of your closest girlfriends while cruising the strip on a hot night — and the song plays like a gospel-inflected soundtrack to youthful exuberance and hard-fought independence, making it perfect summer anthem material.

Clean Bandit – “Rather Be” [feat. Jess Glynne]

It’s the most Shazam-ed song in the world, which means that even though you may not recognize the artist, you have definitely heard the song. It’s insidiously catchy, impossible to avoid humming in public, and so quietly infectious, it’s tough to notice that it’s already gone viral, even though it’s hit No. 1 in five countries.

Vote here:

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Here’s How Much Time People Spend Playing Video Games

Posted: 27 May 2014 12:58 PM PDT

The good news is that we’ve finally gotten our priorities in order. According to Nielsen, the average U.S. gamer age 13 or older spent 6.3 hours a week playing video games during 2013. That’s up from 5.6 hours in 2012, which was up from 5.1 hours in 2011. If you like fun, we’re trending in the right direction.

As for which systems were used most often in 2013, seventh-generation consoles (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) beat PCs by a percentage point – 34% to 33% – while mobile phones took a distant third at 10%. Tablets followed at 9%, dedicated gaming handhelds at 6%, eighth-gen consoles at 4% and “other” at 4%.

Also of note is that people who play games on consoles are starting to play games on their phones and tablets more, too. Half of Nielsen’s console respondents for the 2013 study said they also played games on mobile devices; that’s up from 46% in 2012 and 35% in 2011.

BBC Once Said Benedict Cumberbatch Wasn’t Sexy Enough for TV

Posted: 27 May 2014 12:57 PM PDT

Gather ’round, Cumberbabes (and Cumberbros — you guys exist, right?) Today we’d like to share a tale of utter blasphemy.

When the hit show Sherlock was still in its early stages, BBC execs apparently worried that Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t “sexy enough” for the titular role. Speaking yesterday at the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, Sherlock showrunner Steven Moffat said that when he presented his casting suggestion to BBC bigwigs, they responded, “You promised us a sexy Sherlock, not him.”

They also questioned the sexiness of David Tennant, who Moffat had cast as the lead in the BBC miniseries Casanova. “Damn, you should have cast someone sexier,” network execs apparently said.

Watch out, BBC. When the Cumberbabes get word of this, they WILL come after you, and they WILL destroy you.

Donald Trump: “It’s Actually My Hair” And I May Still Run For President

Posted: 27 May 2014 12:51 PM PDT

Shortly after raising the possibility of Trump for President campaign in 2016, Donald Trump tugged at his hair Tuesday.

“It’s actually my hair,” he said, during a lunchtime address at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Indeed, it was. His presidential ambitions, however, may be less substantive, though he did not hold back in teasing the gathered reporters. "We're going to see what happens in '16," he said. "If I don't see the right person I will do something in '16, I will do it sure as you're sitting here."

Those words neatly echoed threats he made during the last presidential campaign in 2012, not to mention the threats he made in the 2000 campaign to run on the Reform Party ticket. Back in 1987, he took out full page newspaper ads that suggested he might get involved in politics. “The world is laughing at America’s politicians,” Trump wrote in one of those ads. He never ran for public office.

Officially Trump was speaking at the National Press Club to talk about the power of branding—"It's all about winning"—and to plug The Old Postal Office, a luxury hotel renovation project which his daughter Ivanka said would open in, you guessed it, 2016. After feasting on a lunch of Caesar salad, seared Atlantic codfish and Trump cookies—a sugar cookie with symbols of his various real estate properties—the billionaire gave a wide-ranging, seemingly extemporaneous, nearly hour-long speech that riffed on everyone from Cher to President George W. Bush.

Trump talked about how he vanquishes celebrity foes through Twitter, including Rosie O’Donnell and Cher. "I hit [Cher] so hard she still doesn’t know what happened,” said Trump, who had feuded with the superstar singer over issues of politics, plastic surgery, hair implants and his line of products at Macy’s. “It's the last I heard of her.”

Trump has 2.6 million followers, or as he put it, “many, many millions.”

Trump also fielded a few personal questions, including one on how he relaxes. “I build buildings,” replied Trump to laughter.

Trump briefly flickered at the top of the GOP polls at the beginning of the last presidential cycle, and said that the next round of candidates will have a particularly difficult time governing with most of the aspects of Obamacare in place. Trump even claimed that 2016 will be a "catastrophic year for the economy" because of delays in the President's health care law.

"Republicans better get smart because they are going to inherit a mess that has never been inherited before," said Trump. He also said he heard that cost $5 billion, which is not true, and joked he builds websites for $3. He ripped the Obama Administration for, among other things, creating a "red line" on Syria, saying America should not be involved in the brutal civil war, not approving the Keystone XL pipeline, and for yielding power to China.

He even threw in a knock on the previous occupant of the White House. "What positive thing has happened to this country in the last 10 years?" asked Trump at one point, apparently forgetting the success of his NBC reality show The Apprentice. "I'm not a Bush fan, believe me. He got us into Iraq."


Frozen‘s Latest Title — Fifth-Highest Grossing Movie Ever — Is Less Impressive Than It Sounds

Posted: 27 May 2014 12:30 PM PDT

This Memorial Day weekend was a big one for X-Men: Days of Future Past, the new movie that earned first place in the box-office race — and, perhaps more surprisingly, for Frozen, a movie that has been out for about half a year already. The mega blockbuster has now grossed $1.219 billion worldwide, which earns it a spot in the list of the top five highest-grossing movies ever. (The movie bumped to No. 6 was Iron Man 3, which has earned $1.215 billion.) According to Deadline, the film got a big boost from its domination in Japan, where it’s won 11 weekends in a row and is the fourth highest-grossing movie ever.

That latest Frozen news is just one more in its long line of victories: Oscar wins, the title of highest-earning animated movie ever, fastest-selling digital home-entertainment release ever, source of a soundtrack that was the first album to sell a million copies in 2014 and much, much more.

But while being the fifth highest-grossing thing is a big deal — it’s in good company, following Avatar, Titanic, The Avengers and the Harry Potter grand finale — it’s maybe not as big as you’d think. Here’s a hint why: the oldest movie on that list is Titanic, which came out in 1997; no other movie from before 2000 cracks the top 10. That’s because the ranking in question is not adjusted for inflation, so newer movies have a leg up in raking in extremely impressive-sounding fortunes. As the New York Times pointed out when Avatar took the top spot back in 2010, it’s easy to think that such a list means that more successful movies are being made today; a more complete picture would look those numbers in context.

But that’s easier said than done. Sites like BoxOfficeMojo offer up data about which domestic inflation-adjusted box-office — Gone with the Wind is first, Frozen is Number 101 — but different currencies worldwide inflate at different rates, so it would be a massive undertaking to break down the value of a unit of money in each country where each movie played and how much it has inflated since then. But that doesn’t mean that bloggers haven’t done that work. This 2011 chart, for example, finds that Gone with the Wind, which made $400 million worldwide, would have raked in a whopping $3.239 billion in 2011 dollars. Avatar and Titanic are still champs but Frozen‘s $1.219 billion leaves it at Number 17. A different blogger calculated in 2013 that, using available worldwide gross data and running it through a U.S. inflation calculator, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would come in first with an astounding $6.729 billion; on that chart, Frozen would be #27. Another has Gone with the Wind at $3.862 billion.

With Frozen still going strong from its November release, it does have a chance to climb the charts — adjusted for inflation or not — further, though it seems unlikely to break the $3 billion mark, a feat that has never happened in today’s dollars. On the other hand, Gone with the Wind and its early high-earning brethren didn’t have things like digital downloads and DVD sales to make the studio money in addition to the billions at the box office. That’s where Frozen has its edge — particularly because there’s no way to adjust for inflation on YouTube hair tutorials.

Why ‘Global Warming’ Is Scarier Than ‘Climate Change’

Posted: 27 May 2014 12:28 PM PDT

A quick check of the archives reveals that I’ve used the term “global warming” in 545 posts, videos and articles—not counting this one. And the term “climate change”? 852 times. That’s not surprising. While the two terms are largely synonymous—which is why there are 472 posts where I use both—”climate change” has become the preferred term for scientists because it better describes the long-term changes in the planet’s climate, which go well beyond simple temperature increase. Scientists use it, and so have I, but most of the time I simply rotate the two terms for variety’s sake.

But it turns out that global warming and climate change evoke very different reactions in ordinary Americans—and for those trying to motivate the public to act on greenhouse gas emissions, using “global warming” could be more effective. In a new report by the Yale Project on Climate Communications, researchers led by Anthony Leiserowitz surveyed Americans and found that “global warming” is used much more commonly than “climate change,” both in conversation and in Internet searches, and that “global warming” is significantly more engaging than “climate change.” That’s because global warming generated more alarming associations, causing survey respondents to think of disasters like melting ice, coastal flooding and extreme weather, while “climate change” generated more banal associations with generation weather patterns. “Global warming” was also associated with:

  • Greater certainty that the phenomenon was happening
  • Greater understanding that human activities were the primary driver of warming, especially among political independents
  • A greater sense of personal threat, as well as more intense worry about the issue
  • A greater sense that people are being harmed right now by warming, and a greater sense of threat to future generations
  • Greater support for both large and small-scale actions by the U.S. (although “climate change” generates more support for medium-scale efforts, especially among Republicans.)

That last bit is especially important. As the report’s authors note, some environmentalists have come to think “climate change” is a more effective term to use with Republicans, precisely because it doesn’t seem as catastrophic as “global warming.” (If there’s one thing conservative climate skeptics like to argue, it’s that environmentalists are constantly overstating the threat of climate change.) But the Yale report found that Republicans don’t really care which term is used, though “global warming” will sometimes generate stronger negative feelings among conservatives. Not that it much matters—a recent Gallup poll found that 65% of conservatives said they were skeptical of climate change, compared to just 24% of moderates and 9% of liberals.

But the Yale report also found that the term “global warming” actually seemed to reduce engagement with Democrats, independents, liberals and moderates:

African-Americans (+20 percentage points) and Hispanics (+22) are much more likely to rate global warming as a "very bad thing" than climate change. Generation X (+21) and liberals (+19) are much more likely to be certain global warming is happening. African-Americans (+22) and Hispanics (+30) are much more likely to perceive global warming as a personal threat, or that it will harm their own family (+19 and +31, respectively). Hispanics (+28) are much more likely to say global warming is already harming people in the United States right now. And Generation X (+19) is more likely to be willing to join a campaign to convince elected officials to take action to reduce global warming than climate change.

Scientists take great pride in the precision of their language, sometimes to the point of jargon-filled incomprehensibility. But language matters in politics, too. Just look at the difference between estate tax and death tax, two terms that refer to the same legal act—taxing wealth left over after a citizen dies—and yet connote two entirely different things. The difference between global warming and climate change isn’t that large yet, but environmentalists who want to nudge as much of the public as possible towards action should be careful which one they use.

Christian ‘Apostate’ Sentenced to Death in Sudan Gives Birth in Jail

Posted: 27 May 2014 12:27 PM PDT

A Sudanese woman sentenced to death for “apostasy” after marrying a Christian and refusing to denounce the faith gave birth in prison Tuesday morning.

Lawyers for Meriam Ibrahim, 27, told the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph that the mother of two wasn’t taken to a hospital or allowed to see her husband, who has been waiting outside of the prison.

Ibrahim was sentenced to death May 15 for apostasy and adultery by a Sudanese court. She will be allowed to live and nurse her child, named Maya, for two years before she is put to death. Her 20-month old child Martin is in prison with her, too.

World leaders and human rights organizations have spoken out to stop the execution.

An Amnesty International petition to override the sentencing has been signed by more than 660,000 people thus far.

Now that Ibrahim has given birth, the Telegraph reports, she is subject to 100 lashes for adultery.

[Daily Telegraph]

Liberia Goes from Warzone To Surfing Mecca

Posted: 27 May 2014 12:11 PM PDT

Only a few in the surfing community know about the miles of untouched golden sands, the clear waters and, most importantly, the rhythmic pounding of perfectly-formed waves that can be found in Liberia.

But Robertsport, a fishing village in north-west Africa, is building a name for itself as one of the best surf spots in Africa, the AFP reported.

“It's picturesque! This is a little bit different from what of most people imagine when they hear Liberia,” said Sean Brody, part of the Surf Resource Project.

Indeed, while the African country has been recently known for gruesome civil wars that spanned two decades and left more than 200,000 people dead, surf tourism is slowly picking up and the country is gaining a global reputation for its spectacular beaches and waves.

In the video above, both local and foreign aficionados talk about what’s so special about Liberia’s coast.

Gaza’s Hamas Government Says Ready to Step Aside

Posted: 27 May 2014 12:07 PM PDT

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The government installed by the Islamic militant group Hamas after its takeover of the Gaza Strip seven years ago said it held its last meeting Tuesday and is ready to hand “full responsibility” to a Palestinian unity government.

Tuesday’s Cabinet statement was the latest sign that rival factions Hamas and Fatah are close to a deal on a unity government that is to end a crippling political rift and prepare for elections in 2015.

The longstanding conflict between the opponents peaked in 2007, when the Islamic militant Hamas drove the Fatah movement of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas out of Gaza, leaving his forces confined to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Since then, both sides have run separate governments in their respective territories on the opposite ends of Israel. Abbas seeks both the West Bank and Gaza as parts of a future Palestinian state, and the internal rift is a major impediment to any potential peace deal.

Repeated reconciliation attempts have failed, but the rivals appear more flexible this time because both are struggling with crises.

Hamas faces severe money problems and has been unable to cover the government payroll because of a tightening border blockade of Gaza by neighboring Egypt over the past year. Israel continues to enforce its border blockade of Gaza, in place since 2007.

Abbas, meanwhile, needs a new political strategy after the latest attempt to negotiate the terms of Palestinian statehood with Israel collapsed in April. Abbas is skeptical about reaching a deal with Israel’s hardline prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

In April, reconciliation efforts resumed. Negotiators said Tuesday they are close to agreement on the new Cabinet lineup. A formal announcement is expected as early as Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Hamas Cabinet said it held its 343rd and final weekly meeting Tuesday. Deputy Prime Minister Ziad al-Zaza said the government “is ready to hand over its full responsibilities to the unity government,” the statement said.


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