NASA’s new Mars rover, Curiosity, has finally landed on the red planet, after over 14 years of planning. The project, which cost 2.5 billion dollars, had seen years of launch delays and problems with funding. But landing on Mars is no easy task. Many previous missions have failed and the United States is the only country to successfully land on Mars, save for one Russian rover that suffered a communication failure shortly after landing. Take that NASA critics! Curiosity is equipped with the most complex laboratory that’s ever been sent to another planet. Its first task is to raise its instruments, including an antenna, cameras, a rock vaporizing laser. Once the cameras are raised, it will begin taking panoramic shots of its surroundings. Soon after, it will take its first drive and in September, it will begin collecting soil and drilling into rock in hopes of finding the answer to the question on everyone’s mind: has there ever been life on Mars?
Much has been said during the 2012 London Olympics about social media and its relationship to television viewership. Obviously the Olympics is a huge topic of conversation in social media and NBC viewership of the games is at all time high. Many have even tried to draw a connection between the two, concluding that lots of social media activity must equal lots of television viewers. My take it on it is a little different. I don’t think the two have anything to do with each other. Like all content, Olympic competitions are story driven and this time around, there have been some extraordinary narratives, especially in the most popular sports like gymnastics and swimming. People will gather to follow good stories. That’s it. That said, social media conversations often add context to the stories and draw attention to details that NBC doesn’t, and NBC and its advertisers would do well to pay attention to those conversations
Newsflash: we are annoyed by our cell phones. As much as we now depend on them, a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that many Americans still aren’t happy with their phones and carriers. A common complaint that people have is that their cell phones don’t make calls properly. 72% of those surveyed experienced dropped calls occasionally, while 32% experienced dropped calls a few times a week. But with so many other ways to communicate, maybe our standard for the quality of our actual phone calls has gone down in recent years. 77% of the people surveyed said that they experienced slow connectivity on their phone, preventing them from downloading or accessing things as quickly as they’d like. With 4g networks spreading and Internet speeds increasing, it’s likely that our standards for connecting have gone up as of late. Mobile owners are also complaining of more spam than ever in the form of sales calls and texts.
Another day, another hack. This time it’s Dropbox and the cloud file-sharing service is blaming the breach on a stolen employee password. The company found that usernames and passwords had been stolen from other websites and because of password reuse, the thieves were able to gain access to a small number of Dropbox accounts, including the employee account in question. Dropbox says the compromised account contained a project that listed user email addresses, which led to those users receiving spam emails. There’s a lesson here, kids: don’t reuse passwords! I know it’s annoying, but there’s a reason why experts recommend a different password for every site you use. If you use the same email and password for more than one account, a hacker who gets ahold of your log in credentials can get into more than one of your accounts, which is what happened in this case. Dropbox maintains that there was no intrusion on its internal systems and will be implementing extra security measures in the coming weeks.
Hotmail may become cool again and no, we haven’t gone back to 1999. Microsoft has unveiled Outlook.com, a new email service that will eventually be the home of all current Hotmail users. The product was clearly designed to compete with Gmail, with a simple, easy to use interface. If you’re a Microsoft user, the new Outlook integrates with some already exiting products. For example, if you use Skydrive, Microsoft’s cloud sharing service, you can upload a file from an email to share with another user. Sharing through Skydrive rather than email takes up less space in the inbox, but is now just as easy as attaching a file. Skype integration is coming as well, just in time to compete with Google Hangouts, which was recently added to Gmail. Also, when you receive a file that can be opened in Microsoft Office, you’re given to option to open it in Office Web Apps, jut like you’d open a file in Google Docs.
The Olympic Games are in full swing and it is by far the most connected games the world has ever seen. So far, this has been both a blessing and a curse. The results are spreading faster than ever before via Twitter and other social media networks. But The International Olympic Committee had to ask spectators in London to take it easy on their mobile use when broadcasters were having trouble covering a cycling event. The broadcasters were unable to report up to date positions of the cyclists because the network was overloaded. As promised stateside, every event is available live on NBCOlympic.com for cable subscribers. That’s a first. But it’s not perfect. Viewers who only have basic cable have no access and streaming video live on devices other than computers is proving difficult for some. I documented my own struggle trying to watch Table Tennis in a blog post on my website.
Last week, Facebook had its first earnings call since becoming a public company, hosted by Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives. Though its revenue was slightly higher than predicted and it reported a gain in users, shareholders were not impressed. Advertising made up 86% of its revenue, with Sponsored Stories bringing in over 1 million dollars a day. Sponsored Stories rolled out this year, and allow for posts to be promoted and shown to more followers for a fee. Zuckerberg articulated the need for more social advertising, since most ads on Facebook right now are traditional ads that can’t be seen in mobile, an area that Facebook sees growing steadily. In fact, Sponsored Stories is Facebook’s only ad product that can be seen on mobile devices. About half of Facebook’s nearly one billion users access Facebook via mobile, up 67% from a year ago, Zuckerberg said. When asked on the call about a Facebook phone, he said it wouldn’t make sense for the company.
I wasn’t exaggerating when I said recently that the Internet speed wars were beginning. Google has now entered the race by building their own fiber optic network, and its new service is light years ahead of Comcast and Verizon when it comes to speed and price. Google Fiber offers speeds of up to 1000 megabits or 1 gigabit per second for 70 bucks a month. Compare that to Verizon’s 300 megabits per second for 205 dollars a month and it sounds like a steal. Google Fiber will also offer TV service that comes with a Nexux 7 tablet, which will serve as the remote control. The combined Internet and tv package will cost 120 bucks a month. What’s the catch? It’s only available in Kansas City and is still considered experimental. Google hasn’t announced any official plans to expand the network but let Google Fiber serve as an example of the kind of service we all may have access to one day in the future.
In order to compete with Verizon Fios, Comcast has announced that it will increase Internet speeds in ten Northeast markets. Its new tier will offer download speeds of up to 305 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 65 Mbps. In case that sounded like gibberish, let me break it down for you. MBPS stands for megabits per second. Verizon’s top tier plan has download speeds of up to 300 megabits per second and costs 205 dollars per month, while Comcast’s fastest service will cost 300 dollars a month. Wondering if you need the speed? An average single user doesn’t really need more than 55 megabits. So unless you’re a family who connects to the Internet with several devices for several hours a day, you can probably skip the top speeds. Comcast also announced that if you’re a subscriber to Xfinity Blast or Xfinity Stream, your Internet speeds will be doubled at no additional cost. Looks like the Internet speed wars have begun.
Apple’s newest operating system, Mountain Lion, has finally arrived. Let’s take a look at the new features it will bring to your Mac: Mountain Lion is more compatible with other iDevices than past operating systems. iCloud plays a much greater role, allowing for easy syncing of media, calendars and contacts. A few new apps let you sync messages, reminders and notes between devices as well. The new OS is more social too, with integration for both Facebook and Twitter and with multiplayer gameplay through the iOS Game Center. It also has a new notification center that pops up in the right hand corner and looks very similar to the notifications on iOS5. Safari gets a few updates too. A copy of Mountain Lion costs 19.99 at the Mac App Store and can be downloaded to multiple Macs after purchase, but you have to be running the latest version of Snow Leopard or Lion to install it.