If it seems like your Facebook friends are a bit more depressed than usual, blame Facebook. The social media site recently revealed that it tweaked the news feed of about 700,000 users to see how they reacted to positive or negative posts. Facebook’s researchers were studying how emotions can be spread on social media, and basically used us as its lab rats. The study found that moods are, in fact, contagious – if you see more positive statuses, you’re more likely to post something positive, too. While Facebook has defended and praised the study, everyone else is less than thrilled. Researchers have condemned the study and said it breached ethical guidelines because of “a lack of informed consent.” Facebook argues the study was okay because we give the company permission to do research when we agree to its Terms and Service. But reports say Facebook’s Terms of Service didn’t include the word “research” until after the experiment was over – which is all the more reason for us to read those lengthy agreements before we click “OK.”
Just about every week, a popular website – or two – gets hacked and leaves you vulnerable. Making your social media accounts more secure is relatively quick and easy. Here’s what you should do. First, enable two-step verification on every site you can. Two-step verification, adds another layer of protection to your account by making you enter a new code from your phone every time you log in. Next, disconnect third-party apps. You’d be surprised how many sites you’ve given access to your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Most are perfectly harmless, but the more you have, the more likely it is that one will get hacked and leave your account vulnerable. Be smart about what you click on. If a Facebook friend sends you a message that looks like a virus, it probably is. Clicking an unknown link could infect your account, too. Finally, add a passcode or password to your device. Even a simple code adds another layer of security and makes it tougher to mess with your accounts.
Yo. It’s one of the simplest ways to greet someone – and now the simplest messaging app on iOS. The entire point of the app is to send your friends a push notification that just reads “Yo.” After launching as a joke on April Fool’s Day, Yo has recently gone viral and now has more than 50,000 active users. It may seem pointless, but Yo has a hidden purpose: a new type of real-time notifications – ones where the notification itself is the entire message. Right now, the Yo account WORLDCUP can send a “Yo” every time a goal is scored in a World Cup game. In the future, other companies could create similar accounts. Restaurants could “Yo” you when your table was ready, airlines could “Yo” you when your flight is boarding, or news sites could “Yo” you whenever they post a breaking news story. It’s these possibilities that have brought in more than $1 million in funding so far – and why you should download Yo and give it a shot today.
After months of debate and speculation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against internet TV service Aereo in a 6-3 decision, effectively killing the service, at least in its current form. Barry Diller, Aereo’s biggest financial backer and one of its most vocal supporters, said the ruling means “it’s over now” for Aereo and that there’s “no Plan B.” The ruling doesn’t directly affect too much of the current TV landscape – Aereo only has about 100,000 subscribers. However, the ruling’s ramifications for the future are much, much greater – especially considering that in three years, more people will watch primetime TV programming online than on broadcast TV. This ruling only delays the inevitable sea change coming to the broadcast world – and helps broadcasters keep their heads in the sand. It’s likely this is the end of the road for Aereo, unless it completely re-works its business model, which doesn’t seem likely. I would hate to think that this ruling inhibits innovation in any way, but only time will tell.
Google recently showed off the future of Android at its I/O conference. The most exciting thing on display might have been a $20 piece of cardboard. Google’s Cardboard project is the company’s take on Virtual Reality – an area of tech that saw Facebook spend $2 billion to acquire VR device maker Oculus. So how does Google’s version work? The unofficial $20 kits include cardboard, lenses, magnets and a rubber band that creates a pair of “goggles” for you to slide your phone into. The system is almost the direct opposite of Oculus’s high-end Rift headset, which requires a hefty investment to experience virtual reality. Google’s inexpensive version – along with its newly-launched VR toolkit – should prompt developers to build support for Cardboard into their apps and services. The virtual reality dream has been around for a while, but has seen a surge in popularity thanks to the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus. Google’s Cardboard may turn out to be little more than a gimmick, but it’s got people talking – and that’s a great start.
Love the Quantified Self movement but wish there was a device to help take your strength training to the next level? The PUSH Band, an app-enabled wearable fitness tracker, is here to help. PUSH, launching later this summer, is the world’s first fitness tracker that also tracks metrics on strength training by logging your workouts and visualizing your results. PUSH keeps track of your reps, sets, force, power, speed and strength, and makes sure you don’t over-exert yourself by going over your weight limit. All this data can be viewed on PUSH’s companion app, which lets you review every rep and is designed to help you track your workouts, optimize your training, review your session and share your results with friends, teammates, personal trainers and coaches. The PUSH app even has a “live view” that lets you compare your training with your friends to see which of you is in the best shape. The PUSH Band is available for pre-order now for $149 at PushStrength.com and will ship in August.
Amazon recently unveiled its long-awaited smartphone, the Fire Phone. Built around the Amazon Prime experience, the Fire Phone runs the same heavily tweaked version of Android found on the Kindle Fire –that means it has a lot of apps, but not every app in Google Play – most notably no Snapchat or YouTube. The phone’s “Firefly” feature is one of its most innovative aspect, and lets you point the phone at just about any product to find it instantly on Amazon. Firefly can also scan text like phone numbers, restaurant signs and QR codes, then identify that text to make calls, create contacts and more. The phone’s other standout feature are the four cameras at each corner of its screen, which help create a custom sensor system that responds to the way you hold your phone. The phone is fine, but it’s not a must-own. It’s too heavy, too awkward, and too late. If you’re an Amazon fanatic who’s gotta have it, the phone will be available exclusively on AT&T on July 25.
Comcast recently launched a program that will turn each of its residential customers’ Xfinity routers into a public hotspot. Starting a few weeks ago in Houston, Comcast says the program will make its way to millions of homes across the country by the end of the year. The program lets any Comcast customer access any other Comcast customer’s Wi-Fi after first authenticating their Xfinity account. That means Comcast customers gained access to free, high-speed internet in a whole lot more places. Worried this means people will tap into your Wi-Fi and slow down your network? Comcast says don’t worry – only five people can log onto a single home network at once, and its network was designed to handle that stress. Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen. Comcast is automatically enrolling every customer with a new Xfinity router into the program. If you want to opt out, and keep your Wi-Fi private, secure and all to yourself, all it takes is a phone call to Comcast.
What if your house knew you were on your way home after a long day at work? And what if your house could then turn on the air conditioning so you always returned to the perfect climate? That’s the goal behind Honeywell’s new smart thermostat Lyric. Unlike Nest’s smart thermostat, which learns your habits to raise or lower the temperature, the Honeywell Lyric uses geo-fences to set the temperature of your home. The Lyric tracks your cell phone to see how far away you are, and adjusts temperature accordingly. On your way home? Lyric can optimize for comfort. On your way out? Lyric goes into energy saving mode. You can tell Lyric to start optimizing for comfort when you’re a couple miles away from home, or when you’re right outside. Lyric also has humidity sensors that can keep your home cool without turning the air conditioning on. Got a separate add-on humidifier? Lyric can control that, too. If you like the sound of Lyric, it’ll be available this August for $279.
If people know that you’re good with technology, you’re bound to be asked time and time again, “Hey could you help me with…” whatever the current problem your friend or loved one is having with their computer. Sometimes the problem is an easy fix, but sometimes … not so much. But what remains true of almost any problem is that you can probably fix it quicker yourself than you can by describing the fix to them. Google is here to help, as it recently added a remote desktop feature to Google+ Hangouts. Now, instead of trying to guess where your friend or loved one is clicking and becoming more and more frustrated, you can take control of their desktop and sort their issue out yourself. This cool new feature is hidden away under the “Hangout Apps” section, so once you get permission from the other user to access their computer, you’re free to fix their problem and get on with the rest of your day.