<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Tech News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/tech http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Mon, 21 Apr 2014 05:37:07 -0500 Mon, 21 Apr 2014 05:37:07 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Journalist Says Google Glass Led to SF Assault]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 08:00:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/04-14-2014-Kyle-Russell.jpg

Google Glass appears to have inspired another attack in San Francisco.

Kyle Russell, a Berkeley-based tech reporter for Business Insider, had his Google Glass ripped from his face and "smashed on the ground" near the 16th and Mission BART station on Friday, he says. 

The attacker, a woman, shouted "Glass" before taking off with the $1,500 computer glasses, Russell said. Russell gave chase but before he could catch the assailant, she smashed the Glass on the ground.

She then "vanished," the Chronicle reported.

Russell had been in the Mission District covering an anti-Google protest, he said on Twitter. There had been a tech bus blockage that morning as well as a protest at an apartment building supposedly bought by a Google lawyer, who had moved to evict the tenants. 

Reaction to Russell's fate -- or, to be more accurate, the fate of his Glass -- ranged from solace-giving to outright schadenfreude, with perhaps a bit more of the latter from the anti-tech set.

Russell told NBC Bay Area he’s amused that critics seem to believe he was “flaunting” his wealth “as a techie, which is funny because I'm a journalist who lives in Berkeley.”

However, "I can see why the person who smashed my Glass did what they did," Russell said in a post summarizing the run-in and the subsequent reactions.

He recognizes that tech-fueled gentrification has pushed people out of their homes, and that his "love for gadgets" like Glass "makes me look and sound like one of the" oppressors, he wrote.

Earlier, a woman reported having her Google Glass snatched off of her face at a San Francisco bar. Sarah Slocum, a self-described tech PR writer, recovered her device.



Photo Credit: Karyne Levy]]>
<![CDATA[Google Is Letting Anyone in the U.S. Buy Glass – Only for One Day]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:07:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/fb-04-14-2014-google-glass.jpg

Pining for Google Glass? You could snag your own pair today.

The tech giant opened up its "Explorer Program" to the general public for one day Tuesday, allowing any adult in the United States to purchase the technology for $1,500 plus tax on the Google Glass site. The limited number of Google Glass were available for sale starting at 6 a.m. PST -- 9 a.m. on the East Coast -- at this link.

The news of the sale created a buzz on social media, especially on Tuesday when many took to Twitter to either praise Glass or complain about the price.

The announcement about the sale, made last week via Google+ and Facebook posts, came after The Verge posted that it had obtained documents that indicated that Google will open up its "Explorer Program," making the personal wearable computers available to anyone.

"Whoops. So... we’d planned to post this next week, but it looks like the cat's out of the bag now," Google Glass said in its post. "Over the past several months, we’ve been trying out different ways to expand the Explorer program. Some of you signed up at Google I/O, some told us what you would do #ifihadglass, some were referred by a friend, some joined through their school or university. Our Explorers are moms, bakers, surgeons, rockers, and each new Explorer has brought a new perspective that is making Glass better. But every day we get requests from those of you who haven’t found a way into the program yet, and we want your feedback too. So in typical Explorer Program fashion, we’re trying something new."

Currently Google Glass is not available for sale to the public. Anyone who is over 18 years old, is a U.S. resident with a U.S. shipping address, can sign up for the restricted Google Glass Explorer Program.

Google said in its post that it will open up some spots in the Glass Explorer Program on April 15, without specifying exactly how many. They are even throwing in people's favorite shades or frames, thanks to feedback from current explorers.

As for everyone outside the U.S., here's what Google had to say:

"Sorry [sad emoticon] We’re just not ready yet to bring Glass to other countries."

 



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[NASA Tests "Saucers" for Mars]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:48:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/rocket-sled-test-nasa-saucer.gif

The flying saucers of science fiction movies might be the shape of things to come for future Mars missions that are expected to involve larger payloads that today's landing vehicles are not equipped to handle.

The saucer-shaped landing systems in development, part of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project, will be sent into near-space in June from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.

Scientists provided a mission overview in a "clean room" Wednesday at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Reporters were required to wear lab suits and hats.

"If you want to land bigger and bigger payloads, you need ways of growing the size of the vehicle to create more drag," said JPL's principal investigator Ian Clark, likening the vehicle to a puffer fish.

Current landing technologies rely primarily on parachute designs dating to the 1970s Viking Program. That design placed two landers on Mars in 1976 and the same basic technology was used about 35 years later when the Curiosity rover landed on Mars' surface.

After a parachute deployed high above Mars' surface, rocket thrusters were used to slow Curiosity's landing vehicle. The rover was then dropped by cables from the spacecraft and gently placed on the landing site before the tethers were disconnected and the spacecraft soared clear of the site.

NASA's landing vehicles in development would use the saucer shape to maximize atmospheric drag -- slowing and stabilizing the spacecraft after it enters Mars' atmosphere for final approach, a process described as "six minutes of terror." Increasing drag would save rocket engines and fuel required for complex landing maneuvers.

Friction already slows a spacecraft considerably after it enters Mars' atmosphere during the first four minutes of entry. But the spacecraft is still traveling at about 1,000 mph at that point and decelerates to about 200 mph after parachute deployment, which occurs at about 300 feet from the surface, according to NASA.

Thruster rockets, giant airbag cushions and tethers can all be used for the remainder of the descent, but the larger payloads possible in future Mars missions require something more advanced. The decelerators being developed by NASA -- pufferfish-like inflatable devices and an improved parachute -- can almost double payload mass, according to researchers.

The concept was ground-tested using a rocket sled in June 2012. The balloon-like inflatable devices extend around the vehicle to increase drag. A large parachute would then deploy to scrub off more speed.

The parachute is so large it did not fit in a wind tunnel, so researchers used the rocket-powered sled test at the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake.

The upcoming test flights will give scientists a better idea of how the technology works when the saucer is sent high above Earth. The vehicles could be used in Mars missions as early as 2018, according to NASA.

When asked what was so sensitive about the project that it needed to take place in a clean room, Clark laughed, "It is the only space we had available."



Photo Credit: NASA]]>
<![CDATA[Must See: Giant Tetris Game Draws Crowd]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 06:28:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/pa-tetris_1200x675_219161155683.jpg Hundreds of Tetris fans got to play a super-sized version of the popular interlocking shapes game in Philadelphia on Saturday.]]> <![CDATA[Mozilla CEO Quits After Backlash]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 20:54:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/04-03-2014-Brendan-Eich.jpg

Mozilla's newly-appointed CEO Brendan Eich has stepped down following calls for him to resign over his support for California's anti-gay marriage bill Prop. 8.

Mitchell Baker, Mozilla's board chairman, announced Eich's resignation in a blog post on Thursday.

"Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community," Baker said.

Eich -- who created the JavaScript programming language -- came under fire for a $1,000 donation he made in 2008 to support Prop. 8.

Eich's donation came under intense scrutiny over the last two weeks, and a number of people -- including Mozilla employees -- took to Twitter to criticize him. The dating site OKCupid joined the protest, calling for a boycott of the FireFox browser.

"Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it," Baker's post said. "We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves. We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better."

The Guardian reported that Eich has "repeatedly refused to discuss his donation to the Proposition 8 campaign, saying that to do so would violate Mozilla’s principle of inclusiveness."

“I agree with people who say it wasn't private, but it was personal,” he said of the donation in a Wednesday interview. “But the principle that I have operated by, that is formalised in our code of conduct at Mozilla, is it's really about keeping anything that's not central to our mission out of our office."

The Guardian also reported that Eich donated thousands of dollars to Right Wing Republicans such as Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan in the 1990s.

In a March 26 post on his website, Eich addressed lingering concerns about his stance on marriage equality.

"I am deeply honored and humbled by the CEO role. I’m also grateful for the messages of support," Eich said. "At the same time, I know there are concerns about my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla. I hope to lay those concerns to rest, first by making a set of commitments to you. More important, I want to lay them to rest by actions and results."

Eich went on to detail Mozilla's commitment to inclusiveness, adding that he was committed to ensuring that "Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion."

In her post, Baker underlined the importance of "diversity and inclusiveness."

"Mozilla supports equality for all," she said. "While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better."

Twitter immediately reacted to news of Eich's resignation, with some asking asking whether the resignation was the best way to address the issue.

Investor and entrepreneur Marc Andreesssen tweeted in support of Eich's contribution to technology, saying: "Brendan Eich is a good friend of 20 years, and has made a profound contribution to the web and to the entire world."

Others hailed the power of "clicktivism," praising OKCupid for its call to action.

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<![CDATA[The Best April Fools' Jokes From Across the Web]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 15:55:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicken-april-fools86159934.jpg

Won't get fooled again? The Internet is full of so many April Fools' jokes that it's hard to trust anything online. Here are some of the most memorable hoaxes and gags from across the web on April 1.

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton parodied his wife, Hillary Clinton's, Twitter photo, which has taken on meme status over the last couple of years. Hillary's photo is of her back in 2011 when she was Secretary of State. The black and white photo shows her texting in sunglasses on a military plane bound for Libya. Bill's photo is almost an exact replica, except he's perched where she used to be and is holding an extremely large iPad.

Google

The tech giant unveiled a legitimate update for Google Maps' iOS and Android apps that lets users hunt Pokémon around the globe. There are 150 of the creatures hiding across the world map. When you catch one, it's tagged in a Pokédex, a digital encyclopedia for Pokémon. The update was announced on Google's Japanese blog on Monday. The blog features a nifty video that's sure to excite Google and Pokémon fans alike.

Google also launched a new app in its Chrome Web Store that allows cats to type on smartphones using their paws. Like the Google Maps app update, this app actually exists; it's not just a gimmick. Features include "four pawing modalities using your trackpad or touchscreen" and "cat translation technology (beta)." Google claims new apps are coming for dogs, fish, hamsters and dinosaurs. Squirrels weren't left out of the mix either...

Netflix

The video streaming service is tempting users with a brand new original movie: "Rotisserie Chicken." Except there are no actors or elaborate plot lines in this one, just 73 minutes of a rotisserie chicken being cooked in reverse. It's available until April 2, so if watching a juicy hunk of poultry travel backwards in time to its original raw state is your thing, you've got only a day to watch it.

Oh yeah, and there's also a 20-minute movie called "Sizzling Bacon" that's exactly what it sounds like, and just like "Rotisserie Chicken," it's backwards. One reviewer praised "Sizzling Bacon" as "an absolute masterpiece and Netflix's best original yet."

Reddit

The social news site announced a revolutionary new way to browse Reddit, dubbed "headdit." By moving his or her head, a user can browse different links in Reddit. A user can simply frown to give a down vote and nod vigorously to give an up vote. A look of surprise will open a web link. Presenting a cat in front of the computer initiates "cat mode" (what "cat mode" does, we're not quite sure). "Headdit" uses "hand equivalent action detection" to accomplish this innovative way of browsing Reddit.

Sadly, the announcement was just a joke, and no such technological feat has actually been implemented.

LinkedIn

The professional networking site jumped on the cat bandwagon with its new "Cats You May Know." The fake website update, which was announced on LinkedIn's blog, is supposed to connect professionals on the site with the feline community, and vice versa. On the blog, Peter Rusev writes, "Cats You May Know is designed to give pawed professionals an opportunity to brand themselves, share their unique skills, and network with both humans and other relevant cats in their breed." Maybe the cats could use Google's new paw-friendly app to access this faux LinkedIn page.

Uber

The taxi app is offering its users in New York a major discount along the Second Avenue subway route. The ride has been discounted down to $2.50 — the same price as a New York subway ride — as an April Fools' Day promotion. The discount lets people ride between 128th and Houston Streets at the discounted price, a steep drop from the normal price, which can top well over $20, depending on traffic.

The taxi's route follows the long-planned Second Avenue Subway line in Manhattan. Known as "The Line That Time Forgot," it was first proposed back in 1929 and has faced significant delays in its construction ever since.

CERN

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, operator of the world's largest particle collider, has announced that it is changing the font of its website to the much-maligned Comic Sans. "This is an important year for CERN and we wanted to make a bold visual statement," said CERN Head of Communications James Gillies.

The laboratory celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. It officially switches to the "round and squishy" font today. Chances are slim that it'll still be there tomorrow.

Domino's Pizza

The global pizza chain's British website announced an edible pizza box made entirely of crust. Described as "A world first in 'snackaging' innovation," the Edibox promised to transform pizza delivery and cardboard box recycling. To the disappointment of crust-lovers everywhere, Domino's tweeted that it was all an April Fools' gag.

Vegemite

Vegemite, the crude-colored food paste from Australia, makes many Americans' stomachs turn. But the yeast-based stuff — like its British counterpart, Marmite — is beloved by many. So it's no wonder that Vegemite's announcement that it's releasing a Vegemite energy drink was met with yays and nays on Facebook and Twitter. In the end, it was all just an April Fools' joke.  But that hasn't stopped wishful thinking from some.

Wagamama

The London-based restaurant chain announced via Twitter that it will be adding flavor to its utensils. The chain, which primarily serves Japanese ramen noodles, says it will introduce four flavors of chopsticks: soy, wasabi, chili and ginger. It's actually not a bad idea, but chances are the April Fools' concept won't stick.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Twitter Celebrates 8th Birthday With #FirstTweet]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 10:53:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/162211003.jpg

San Francisco-based Twitter is celebrating its 8th birthday with a #flashbackfriday trick that lets tweeps see their first post on the microblogging site.

Twitter set up a website, First-Tweets.com, to allow its estimated 214 million users to look back at their first 140 characters.

The move has users around the world reminiscing about their foray on Twitter. Since its start as a quirky messaging tool, the platform has taken off as a promotional outlet for news agencies, police, politicians and celebrities.

In a blog post, Twitter shared what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Twitter founder founder Jack Dorsey tweeted as novice users. Dorsey wrote: "just setting up my twttr." One of the more popular first tweets comes from Russian President Vladmir Putin, who congratulated president-elect Barack Obama on Nov. 7, 2012.

Check out your first post and have a look a few notable #firsttweets:



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Big Bang" Professor Speaks Out]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 12:56:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/03-20-2014-big-bang-prof.jpg

It’s been two weeks since Stanford physics professor Andrei Linde found out that his Big Bang theory was true, but he’s still reeling from the repercussions.

Since the announcement  was made public Monday, 2.4 million people on YouTube have watched Linde react to news that evidence from the BICEP2 experiment in the South Pole supports his cosmic inflation theory of how the universe began.

For many, the two-minute video felt more real than any glammed-up episode of reality television could ever be. Hundreds tweeted, Facebooked and GIF'd it, leaving no doubt that the news had sparked the beginning of many discussions on life, evolution and the universe.

Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, perhaps summed it up best in the New Yorker, explaining that the discovery could “allow us to peer back to the very beginning of time—a million billion billion billion billion billion times closer to the Big Bang than any previous direct observation.”

Linde called the media attention "a pleasant bump on the road."

“We are not exposed to this kind of attention, but that has changed,” Linde said Thursday. “We developed these ideas almost 30 years ago, nobody cared at that time, and only now they are being discussed seriously.”

So what exactly is inflation?

“Inflation is a brief stage of exponential expansion of the universe, which made the universe large and uniform, and produced the seeds for the large-scale structure of the universe,” Linde said.

He added that he is not entirely sure yet that his theory is true.

“I’m 95 percent convinced it’s true, but extraordinary statements need extraordinary proof. If these results are correct, they are among the most spectacular results in observational cosmology obtained in the 21st century. We should wait a little before they are analyzed and confirmed by other observers.”

As for his now-famous reaction on camera, Linde said that it was all real.

In the video released by Stanford University, assistant professor of physics Chao-Lin Kuo gets ready to deliver the good news to Linde.

“He has no idea I’m coming.”Kuo says into the lens, walking toward Linde's house.

“So I have a surprise for you,” Kuo tells Linde and his wife when they open their door. “It’s five sigma at point two.”

Linde’s wife, Standford professor of physics Renata Kallosh, says something that sounds like, “Discovered it?”

Then Linde asks Kuo to repeat himself again, and again, and then stops him mid-sentence, exclaiming: “Point two?”

Later, while celebrating over some champagne, Linde tells Kuo that the couple hadn't been expecting anybody and Renata had asked him whether he had ordered delivery from Amazon.

“Yeah,” he says in the video, “I ordered it 30 years ago. Finally it arrived.”

“My head is turning on my shoulders [since I found out],” Linde told NBC Bay Area Thursday. “There are some miracles about our world which do not allow us to sleep well … any results that support inflation, indirectly support the idea of the multiverse as well."

When asked where the discovery and subsequent validation of his theory falls in the pantheon of great scientific discoveries (Linde counts Einstein, Newton and Niels Bohr among his heroes), Linde said that although he wouldn’t compare it with quantum mechanics or the theory of relativity, it's really important to him.

“It’s changed our vision of life, the universe and our place in the world,” he said.



Photo Credit: via YouTube]]>
<![CDATA[Stevie Wonder Touts Technology for Impaired]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 06:05:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Stevie-Wonder-SD-0320.jpg

Music legend Stevie Wonder was in San Diego Thursday, not for a performance, but checking out new gadgets showcased at the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference.

The Grammy Award-winning hitmaker attended the event at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown San Diego.

There, he spoke with NBC 7 about the importance of assisted technology for those with disabilities and impairments, including visual impairment, such as Wonder himself.

“It’s always good seeing new technology that makes the world more accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired,” Wonder told NBC 7.

“Imagine yourself not being able to see, and then all of a sudden, you’re able to get information that you would have never had available to you. That’s how important [new assisted technology] is,” he added.

Wonder made his way through the conference, visiting with friends and checking out gadgets. He wasn’t a keynote speaker or performing, just simply enjoying the event as an attendee.

In its 29th year, the conference filled an exhibit hall, highlighting products from more than 150 companies catering to those with hearing, reading and writing disabilities.

For instance, one product on display was a braille note-taking tool with a voice output system. Other examples of new technology included screen-reader devices that read out loud what is being typed.

The devices may look simple to some, but they can make a world of a difference for those who need it most.

Dinah Cohen has spent the last 23 years as the director of the Department of Defense’s computer electronic program, which provides these types of technology to wounded warriors. She also attended Thursday’s conference and said events like these are important in supporting soldiers returning home from deployment.

“I know when the first wave of wounded warriors were coming back, many had lost their vision, lost their hearing. And they had no idea where to start. And to know the technology is out there is step one of the recovery and process,” said Cohen.

Kathy Martinez is the Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy. Martinez says assisted technology helps her and others with their everyday tasks.

“Technology is the great equalizer. A lot of us cannot do what we do. I get upwards of 300 emails a day. Tthere’s no way I can ask someone to read them to me. So to have an iPhone or tablet that talks where I can actually hear what’s on the screen is critical for me to do my job,” she said.

Martinez says assisted technology also helps people with disabilities stay employed.

“That means we're paying taxes. That means were not on benefits and contributing to society," she said. "So accessible technology has a huge impact on society as a whole, not only on the person that has disability.”

The International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference is in town through Saturday.



Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Mystery Tech Tenant]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:13:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/03-19-2014-sj-tech-office.jpg

Who’s the mystery tenant moving into San Jose's biggest-ever office park? That’s the million-dollar question everyone in Silicon Valley is scrambling to answer.

Speculation started flying as soon as San Jose city officials approved the 2-million square-foot office project on North First Street and Brokaw Road in North San Jose on Wednesday.

The list of potential occupants includes everybody from Seattle-based Microsoft and Amazon, to locals Apple, Google and Facebook.

So far, the only person at City Hall who reportedly knows the name of the company is San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, and he’s not talking.

"The company name is not something that I can divulge." Reed told NBC Bay Area. "They’ve asked me to keep it confidential and I will, but it’s obviously a pretty big deal for 2-million square-feet, it’s an awfully large space."

Reed added that it was a Fortune 500 company and people will recognize the name when they finally hear it.

"It’s a Silicon Valley tech company," he said. "There’s no doubt that there’s plenty of companies growing and we want to keep them here."

The project’s developers, Palo-Alto-based Peery-Arrillaga who are also behind Stanford's new stadium and the HP and Apple campuses, are not talking either. The firm did not immediately return requests for comment.

Reed underlined the importance of developing the North San Jose area in a September 2013 traffic impact fee incentive recommendation for large-scale offices and R&D campuses, including Peery-Arrillaga’s proposed project.

“With its superior urban design features and proposed high densities [the proposed project] is an excellent example of how we can achieve the objectives of the North San Jose Development policy,” the mayor said.

He added that he was committed to supporting developments such as the Peery-Arrillaga project, which, "when constructed and occupied" will bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue to the city.

Peery-Arrillaga was able to secure permits for the project in just six months and got the city to forgo $4 million in transportation impact fees.

The scale of the proposed project itself -- it's twice the size of Facebook's Menlo Park campus and more than two-third the size of Apple's planned "spaceship" campus in Cupertino -- has sparked quite a bit of interest. The site, located near Highway 101, where the Bay 101 Casino is located, is expected to house 8,000 to 10,000 employees in 10 seven-story buildings. There are also plans for an activity center with soccer fields and courts for basketball, raquetball and squash.

Reed says that he doesn't expect the tech pushback San Francisco and Mountain View are currently experiencing, in part because not a whole lot of people live in that area of San Jose.

"It's going to be a very iconic development for the city and for Silicon Valley," said Steve Piasecki, the city's interim planning official. "...You are going to know where the heart of Silicon Valley is in the not too distant future."

Although Piasecki said that there was enough infrastructure in place to handle the traffic impact caused by the proposed project, the city has already heared from concerned residents.

The proposed project is expected to break ground sometime in 2014.



Photo Credit: Peery-Arrillaga]]>
<![CDATA[Google Hangouts, Chats Restored For Some Users]]> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 14:44:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/466915567.jpg

Google restored service for some users after its chat services, which include Google Talk and Hangouts on Google+, went down on Monday.

The spreadsheet program Google Sheets was fully restored after it also experienced a "service disruption," the company said on its Apps Status Dashboard. Google resolved the issues for Sheets at 2:44 p.m. ET, the dashboard said.

Those trying to "GChat" were seeing messages that indicated recipients were not receiving chat messages, while chat tabs on Google+ said: "things are taking longer than expected."

An update on Google's Apps Status Dashboard at 12:22 p.m. ET announced a "service disruption" with Google Talk and Google+ Hangouts. Google announced the same issue for Sheets at 12:47 p.m. ET.

There was no word on what was causing the problems. In each case, the company said it was "investigating reports of an issue."

 



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Apps, Gadgets Aim for Spring Break Safety]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 11:34:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/169937693.jpg

Spring break season is finally here, and thousands of college students are swapping their down jackets for bikinis and heading to resort spots.

Amid the crush of alcohol-fueled beach parties, it might be easy to forget about staying safe. Here's a list of easy-to-use gadgets and apps that aim to help you have fun and be safe.

1. Drinking responsibly.
College students can unfortunately be pretty immune to the idea of doing anything responsibly or in moderation, especially when alcohol is involved. But a high blood alcohol content (BAC) level could result in a DUI or worse.

Super tech-savvy drinkers may want to check out Breathometer, the world's first smartphone breathalyzer. (CEO and founder Charles Yim got over $1 million in funding from his appearance on the show Shark Tank and from an Indiegogo campaign.) The breathalyzer plugs straight into your iPhone or Android's headphone jack, and is priced at $49.

Other options that don't require a separate device are smartphone apps. If you're an Android user, AlcoDroid can help you keep track of all the drinks you've consumed – if you choose to log them, that is. iPhone users can download Last Call, a blood alcohol level calculator that also lets you call a taxi, or a local lawyer if you need one.

Although the results from BAC calculators are only estimates, they'll be able to help you pace your drinking and figure out whether or not you should get behind the wheel. (You probably shouldn't.)

2. Buddy system apps.
Whether it's checking out a bar or even hitting the restrooms, it's great to have someone with you to watch your back.

Cyber buddies are better than none: Circle of 6 is an app for iPhone and Android users that lets you message your six close friends if you feel like you're in trouble. You can send your GPS location with just a tap, ask a friend to pick you up or send a text that says "Call and pretend you need me. I need an interruption."

Another good app to check out is SafeKidZone, which features include a panic button and a GPS tracking system for everyone in your family.

3. Testing for drugs in your drink.
It's a lot easier for someone to slip a drug into your drink than you might think.

To combat that possibility, several companies have crafted pocket-sized coasters that can test for the presence of incapacitating drugs in your drink. Just a drop of your drink on these coasters will tell you if your drink has been drugged. Texas State Technical College recently handed out 10,000 of these coasters to its students, just in time for spring break.

DrinkSavvy's drug-detecting cups and straws are also starting to make their presence known, starting in Massachusetts. These special cups and straws look and function just like normal drinkware, but they'll instantly change color if they detect such a drug in your drink.

4. Drunk text prevention.
Waking up to a slew of drunken texts after a night you can't remember is embarrassing and all too common. Good thing there are a bunch of self-censoring apps we can use.

Drunk Text Savior for iPhones will analyze your text message for spelling mistakes and swear words. A warning meter will let you know if you should click send, and a save option will let you save the message for later.

Stupid Phonecalls Blocker for Android users will only block one number, but it will block all incoming and outgoing calls, and incoming texts.

5. Getting home safe.
If you're looking for a designated driver, look no further than your smartphone.

StearClear (for iPhone and Android) and BeMyDD (for Android only) both provide pickup services: if you've already driven your car out that night, the app will dispatch two drivers to take you and your car home. BeMyDD also offers personal driver services that will drive you wherever you want, in your own car, at an hourly rate.

You can also rely on Uber to connect with drivers in the area. It's an on-demand service, which means you don't need to make a reservation, and you get picked up within minutes. Depending on which city you're in, you'll have different options for rates and vehicles.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Vetta]]>
<![CDATA[Bad News for Amazon Prime Members]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 15:52:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/amazon-453056767.jpg

If you've ever wanted to sign up for Amazon Prime, you have a week to do so before a big price hike takes effect.

The cost of a standard "Prime" membership is set to set you back $99, up from $79. The $20 rate increase is Amazon's first since the program launched nine years ago.

Prime membership has expanded over the years to include free two-day shipping, free video streaming and a Kindle lending library.

The online retailer detailed the price changes in an email to subscribers. If an existing member's renewal occurs before April 17, 2014, the subscriber will be charged the previous rate of $79 (and $99 for renewals thereafter).

Amazon student memberships will cost $49 and "Prime Fresh" memberships will remain at $299. Prime Fresh members get free same-day and early morning delivery of orders over $35, including fresh grocery and local products found on AmazonFresh.com. It's currently only available in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The standard membership price bump now makes Amazon Prime slightly more expensive than Netflix, which runs just under $96 per year, based on a monthly $7.99 subscription cost.



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Feelings Are Contagious?]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 15:41:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/social_media_debate_president.jpg

New research from the University of California, San Diego, has found that feelings shared on Facebook – via negative or positive posts or status updates – are contagious among online friends.

The study, titled “Detecting Emotional Contagion in Massive Social Networks,” was led by UC San Diego professor of political science James Fowler and UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering PhD student Lorenzo Coviello, among several co-authors.

Published in “PLOS ONE,” the research analyzed whether happiness and other emotions are spread from person to person on social networks such as Facebook.

Using data from more than one billion anonymous status updates among more than 100 million Facebook users in the 100 most populous cities in the United States, the study found that positive posts beget positive posts, while negative posts beget negative ones.

According to the research, positive Facebook posts are more influential than negative ones, spreading the positivity among others. Each additional negative post yields 1.29 more negative posts among friends, while each additional positive Facebook post yields an additional 1.75 positive posts among friends, the study deduced.

In order to measure the emotional content of each post, UC San Diego says researchers used an automated text analysis software program called the "Linguistic Inquiry Word Count."

The study also found that rainy weather changes the mood of Facebook posts – and that mood change can be contagious. The research says rainy weather increases the number of negative posts by 1.16 percent and decreases the number of positive posts by 1.19 percent.

Upon analyzing friends living in different cities as those posting about the rain, researchers found that the moods of those being rained on impacted the moods of their dry friends.

“For every one person affected directly, rainfall alters the emotional expression of about one to two other people, suggesting that online social networks may magnify the intensity of global emotional synchrony,” the study cites.

“Our study suggests that people are not just choosing other people like themselves to associate with but actually causing their friends’ emotional expressions to change,” said lead author Fowler. “We have enough power in this data set to show that emotional expressions spread online and also that positive expressions spread more than negative.”

Fowler said that in today’s digitally-connected world, it’s important to learn what can be transmitted through social media – including how much emotion can actually spread through social networks such as Facebook.

“It is possible that emotional contagion online is even stronger than we were able to measure,” he said.

This could have widespread implications, according to the researchers who write:

“[Emotions] might ripple through social networks to generate large-scale synchrony that gives rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals.”

Researchers suggest their findings could impact public well-being.

“If an emotional change in one person spreads and causes a change in many, then we may be dramatically underestimating the effectiveness of efforts to improve mental and physical health,” said Fowler. “We should be doing everything we can to measure the effects of social networks and to learn how to magnify them so that we can create an epidemic of well-being.”

Additional co-authors of the Facebook feelings study include UC San Diego political science graduate student Yunkyu Sohn; Adam D. I. Kramer and Cameron Marlow of Facebook; Massimo Franceschetti, also of UC San Diego’s Jacobs School; and Nicholas Christakis of the departments of sociology and medicine at Yale University.

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<![CDATA[Why the LIVR App Is Too Good To Be True ]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 15:09:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/gizmodolivr.jpg

An app unveiled at this year's SXSW turned out to be a hoax intended to fool the media.

The parody app LIVR, named after the organ it will destroy while you use it, was billed as a social network that allows drunk people to meet other drunk people. Brandon Bloch, one of the creators behind the fake app, said the inspiration came to him while attending last year's Consumer Electronics Show.

"I was walking the tradeshow floor and saw apps that I thought were fake, but everybody thought they were real," Bloch told Gizmodo. "I actually couldn't tell if they were fake or real, and I wasn't sure if it mattered because everybody was so into the hype of it."

News sites and tech blogs around the web picked up the story as fact. But the Gizmodo report notes that there are a number of outlets who maintained a healthy dose of skepticism. Here are six reasons why LIVR was too good to be true:

A $5 Breathalyzer

To access the app, you're required to blow into a breathalyzer that plugs into the charging port of a phone and it will read your blood alcohol content (BAC). Once you meet the minimum BAC, you are good to go. However, $5 for a breathalyzer is too good of a deal. iOS breathalyzers attachments exist, but cost much more than $5. Breathalyzers are difficult and expensive to produce, Gizmodo notes.

Truth or Dare Game
This is a crowdsourced version of truth or dare, where you can post ideas for the game and dare people to accomplish a task. The more you participate in certain tasks, the more points are stacked up.

Drunk Dial™
With this feature, you can explore the opportunity of not having to accidentally drunk dial people in your personal address book. Drunk Dial™ will randomly connect two inebriated people, even if they are strangers.

Hot Spots
Hot spots show you the nearest bars and clubs in your area. The larger spots show busier venues based on how many people are using LIVR. Each spot on the map is color coded based on how intoxicated the users are. The darker the circle, the more alcohol has been consumed by people.

Blackout Button
The revolutionary idea of the Blackout Button is just too good to be true. This feature is designed to be used as the night comes to an end. Pushing this button will erase evidence of your misdeeds, meaning it will wipe out call history, photos and more.

Morning After Report
Alternatively, a "Morning After" report can be sent to other users so you can proudly show off your antics from the night before.

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<![CDATA[Smartphone App Lets Users Fight Hate Crimes]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 12:24:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/combat-hate-app.jpg

Victims of a hate crime or cyber bullying now have a new digital tool for their arsenal.

The CombatHate App, available for iOS and Android, allows users to anonymously record and report incidents to law enforcement.

Secretary of State Jesse White on Tuesday was joined by the app's developers, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to increase awareness of the technology in Illinois.

"When you've experienced [bullying or discrimination], you know how badly it makes you feel. You know how deeply it cuts you, and we don't that to happen to anyone in society," White said at the Standard Club.

Just last week, the social media application Yik Yak was disabled in Chicago after high school administrators and parents expressed concerns the app was being used for cyber bullying.

In addition to allowing users to report incidents, the application also aims to define what constitutes a hate crime or hate speech. For users who want to report bullying, which isn’t technically a hate crime, the app links to the federal stopbullying.gov website for tips on dealing with that type of harassment.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, based in Los Angeles, is a global human rights organization.

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<![CDATA[Google Barge Sets Sail in Calif.]]> Sun, 09 Mar 2014 19:36:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/216*120/googlebarge.jpg

The mysterious Google barge seen floating in the San Francisco Bay has docked in a city sometimes hailed as the "asparagus capital of the world," making its new home in Stockton, Calif.

"It's been a busy six months for our barge and it's grown tired of all the attention," a Google spokeswoman emailed NBC Bay Area. "So we are moving it to Stockton where it can have a break, enjoy the city's delicious asparagus and warmer climate, and get a bit of rest before its next chapter."

The barge, which contains some sort of mysterious project in the works that Google has yet to unveil, landed at Stockton's Navy Rough and Ready Island, about 75 miles east of the Golden Gate Bridge, just about 10:30 a.m. on Thursday (PST). It's impossible to tell what's inside the four-story barge painted all in white, as the windows are taped up and security guards the entrances.

Despite the secrecy of what's inside, the port will house the Google barge for six months, with the tech company paying the standard dockage fee of about $12,000 a month, Port of Stockton Director Richard Aschieris said. The news is seen by some as a boon for the Central Valley city, which, in addition to throwing an annual festival celebrating the spindly green vegetable, has made headlines for filing for bankruptcy and fighting high crime rates.

"We're just so pleased they like our facility," Aschieris told NBC Bay Area.

The barge left Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay Area about 8 a.m. PST on Thursday and began lumbering across the bay to  the San Joaquin County seat.

Earlier this week, the Port of Stockton and Stockton officials knew nothing about Google's plans to move its barge. Aschieris said Thursday that the news was "just confirmed at 2 a.m. this morning."

Google was recently put on noticed by bay-watchers in San Francisco Bay that its barge would need to acquire permits or get going. Aschieris said he knew nothing about the permitting process in San Francisco, and housing the barge in Stockton did not require any special paperwork.

CNET, the first to report that the barge would be headed to Stockton, said that Google was poised to have to pay fees levied by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), a California state agency that manages bay waters.

Earlier this month, BCDC -- which had been for some time investigating whether Google needed a construction permit to complete the project at Treasure Island -- said that Google either needed to get such a permit, move elsewhere, or begin accruing fines that would top out at $30,000. The agency gave Google a 35-day grace period. CNET reported that the Port of Stockton falls outside the jurisdiction of the commission.

Meanwhile, CNET also reported that the construction on the barge went on hiatus in October because there were reported issues with the interior design. The San Francisco Chronicle uncovered that the large structure was supposed to be a large exhibition space, covered in sails, and would dock in various places.

As for peeking inside the mysterious Google barge, Aschieris said he didn't think he'd get any special inside look despite his position.

"I doubt it," he said.

 

NBC Bay Area's Shelby Hansen and Bob Redell contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[5 Ways RadioShack Could Reinvent Itself]]> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 16:12:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/radioshack2.jpg

RadioShack reminded us all why we love it last month with its '80s-themed Super Bowl commercial — but it wasn't enough to reverse the tide of poor sales. The retro retailer, whose roots are in providing components to build ham radios, plans to close 1,100 of its U.S. stores, it announced this week.

Here are a few ways the retailer could reinvent itself.

1) Appeal to maker culture.
Limore Shur, founder of the creative design agency eyeball, suggests RadioShack could reposition itself by going slightly higher-tech — while staying loyal to its DIY roots — by appealing to the DIY tech movement known as maker culture.

"It would seem they have a great opportunity to build off their history as a supplier of relevant materials to make electronics," Shur said.

Instead of trying to compete with big-box stores to sell the latest headphones, RadioShack should fill a niche need for customers looking to modify their 3D printers, fix their interactive LED screens, make their GoPros fly and build drones, he said.

"How great would it be to go into RadioShack and get a kit to fix your (or your daughter's) shattered cell phone screen?" he asked.

And to remove any lingering relation to the analog age, Shur suggests perhaps a change of name is in order: "MakerShack." Even the White House is going to stage its first Maker Faire later this year.

2) Make them all concept stores.

One area where RadioShack has shown growth has been with its Concept Stores, which it said aim to "attract tech-hungry shoppers who will find a new level of products, service and excitement in a store that makes the buying experience fun."

Those stores highlight what RadioShack calls "in-demand" brands like Apple, HTC, Beats Electronics and Samsung and include fixtures like a Speaker Wall to let customers compare products — you know, like a modern-day retail store.

3) Get Jeff Bezos to come knocking.
Quartz first suggested last year that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos should buy RadioShack outright. Now, seeing as the company's market value is below $300 million (for reference: Bezos paid just $250 million for the Washington Post), it wouldn’t be out of the question.

Bezos could take it a step further and turn the store spaces into Amazon "locker rooms," hubs for Amazon's locker delivery service that are also sports merchandise retail stores. Bezos could forge partnerships with local sports teams, letting customers pick up their Kindles or "Cards Against Humanity" games along with their Knicks tees or Chargers hats.

4) Become a mobile phone company.

As writer Steve Cichon very cleverly pointed out at The Huffington Post, every single item in  a RadioShack newspaper advertisement from 1991 (with the exceptions of the three-way speaker and radar detector) can now be replaced with a few taps of your smartphone:

So why not move to become a mobile phone company?

5) Go online-only.
RadioShack could cut costs by going online-only and get rid of the physical locations entirely by selling them to the likes of Starbucks.

The coffee giant bought tea company Teavana last year and opened its first tea bar in New York. Now, Starbucks plans to build 1,000 tea bars in the next 10 years. Why not make it 4,000?

What do you think? What should RadioShack do?



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Website Allows You to Virtually Shop for Eye Glasses]]> Mon, 03 Mar 2014 13:27:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000006251123_1200x675_178265155803.jpg Charlie Wojciechowski shows us Ditto.com, a new website that lets you try on eyeglass frames "virtually" and then shows you how you will look in them from different angles. You can then order glasses of your choice on line from Ditto if you wish.]]> <![CDATA["Minecraft" Film in Development]]> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 12:06:06 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/NC_minecraft0725_test_mezzn.jpg

After the uber success of "The Lego Movie," another popular video game that allows you to utilize your imagination, "Minecraft," is also headed to a theater near you.

The game's creator Markus "Notch" Persson confirmed the news on Thursday in a Twitter post, saying, "Someone is trying leak the fact that we're working with Warner Brothers on a potential Minecraft Movie. I wanted to be the leak!"

Since its release on the XBox 360 Live Arcade in 2009, "Minecraft" has sold over three million copies on the XBLA alone and has spawned a myriad of versions and imitators. With no set goals, the sandbox game essentially allows players to create their own worlds.

Players use blocks to design elaborate structures during the day and at night, enemies the likes of skeletons, spiders and even zombies attack your creations. Able to be played in a variety of modes with multiplayer options, the game quickly became a huge hit. References in other video games such as "Borderlands II" and "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim," as well as "South Park" have ensured its place in pop culture. And with over 100 million users, it's safe to say "Minecraft" is as popular as "Grand Theft Auto" and "World of Warcraft."

"Minecraft" film will be developed by "The Lego Movie" producer Roy Lee (“How to Train Your Dragon,” "The Departed") and Jill Messick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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<![CDATA[Woman: I Was Attacked For Wearing Google Glass]]> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 17:30:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Google-Glasses.jpg

A woman says she was taunted and robbed in San Francisco for wearing Google Glass.

The woman, Sarah Slocum, mentioned on Facebook that she was in a bar in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood Friday night showing off the wearable computer accessory when someone took it from her face and ran, while another told her that she and her techie friends were "destroying the city," according to the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Slocum said she chased the assailant who she says took the Google Glass and retrieved it, but another person had taken her purse and cellphone.

The incident comes amid mounting tension between techies and other San Francisco residents who feel the tech workers are driving up costs without adding infrastructure or bettering neighborhoods.

While Slocum reportedly wasn't doing anything annoying or rude, Google has released a list of do's and don'ts for using Glass so users won't annoy people. None of them warn users to beware of class warfare.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Top Google Doodles]]> Fri, 14 Feb 2014 17:21:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ribbons-love-google-doodle1.png Since 1998, Google has created over 1000 colorful and imaginative doodles to commemorate important holidays and people. Take a look back at some of the most iconic designs from around the world.]]> <![CDATA[Google Valentine's Doodle Celebrates Real Love Stories]]> Fri, 14 Feb 2014 17:07:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Google+Doodle1.jpg

Google is celebrating Valentine’s Day with a “doodle” featuring true love stories that will make your heart melt.

The doodle, visible on Google.com in the U.S., contains six candy hearts in place of the logo. Each heart represents a real-life love story taken from the public radio show "This American Life."

Heartfelt at times and silly at others, the true stories range from a kid's tale of "Puppy Luv," to "First Kiss," a couple's realization, after years of friendship, that they were meant to be together.

Another story, entitled "Mr. Right," is about of a woman who spent the morning after her wedding day  walking around pondering her fate. Unsure of her future, she eventually realized she made the right decision.

"When it got dark, I came home," she said. "My husband, he was just so worried. I could see it in his face, I could tell. He said, 'Where have you been? I called the police cause I thought you got lost or something happened.' Then I just thought, well he's a good man and I should give it a try. That was 42 years ago and since then, I've never questioned. Never."

After you've listened to all of the stories, the doodle wishes the user “Happy Valentine’s Day, from the internet.”

The doodle on Google's European site is just as sweet and creative. A clickable heart takes you to a cutting board with assorted ingredients for chocolate-covered strawberries, nuts, and ... ants. Once you make your selections the doodle puts the Valentine's Day treats in a heart-shaped tin.

The doodle quickly became a hit on social media.

This isn't the first time Google has spiced up their site on Valentine's Day. Last year's Google doodle featured a Ferris Wheel of love that allowed users to match up animals the likes of a bear, a horse and an octopus and send them on a fun date.



Photo Credit: Google]]>
<![CDATA[READ: Mark Zuckerberg Reflects on Facebook's 10th Anniversary ]]> Tue, 04 Feb 2014 08:51:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/170936020.jpg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg turned to his own profile page to reflect on the site's 10th birthday today, thanking the social network platform's billion-plus users and vowing to use his resources to "help people across the world solve even bigger and more important problems."

"I'm so grateful to be able to help build these tools for you, he wrote. "I feel a deep responsibility to make the most of my time here and serve you the best I can."

Here is the full text of the post, shared on Zuckerberg's profile page early Tuesday morning:

"Today is Facebook's 10th anniversary.

It's been an amazing journey so far, and I'm so grateful to be a part of it. It's rare to be able to touch so many people's lives, and I try to remind myself to make the most of every day and have the biggest impact I can.

People often ask if I always knew that Facebook would become what it is today. No way.

I remember getting pizza with my friends one night in college shortly after opening Facebook. I told them I was excited to help connect our school community, but one day someone needed to connect the whole world.

I always thought this was important -- giving people the power to share and stay connected, empowering people to build their own communities themselves.

When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it.

The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.

While some doubted that connecting the world was actually important, we were building. While others doubted that this would be sustainable, you were forming lasting connections.

We just cared more about connecting the world than anyone else. And we still do today.

That's why I'm even more excited about the next ten years than the last. The first ten years were about bootstrapping this network. Now we have the resources to help people across the world solve even bigger and more important problems.

Today, only one-third of the world's population has access to the internet. In the next decade, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to connect the other two-thirds.

Today, social networks are mostly about sharing moments. In the next decade, they'll also help you answer questions and solve complex problems.

Today, we have only a few ways to share our experiences. In the next decade, technology will enable us to create many more ways to capture and communicate new kinds of experiences.

It's been amazing to see how all of you have used our tools to build a real community. You've shared the happy moments and the painful ones. You've started new families, and kept spread out families connected. You've created new services and built small businesses. You've helped each other in so many ways.

I'm so grateful to be able to help build these tools for you. I feel a deep responsibility to make the most of my time here and serve you the best I can.

Thank you for letting me be a part of this journey."

 

 


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[10 Years of Facebook]]> Tue, 04 Feb 2014 11:18:36 -0500 Feb. 4, 2004: Facebook, known as "thefacebook.com," goes live. Mark Zuckerberg — along with Harvard University roommates Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin — launches the social networking site exclusively for elite U.S. colleges. Facebook hits 1 million users just 10 months later.]]> Feb. 4, 2004: Facebook, known as "thefacebook.com," goes live. Mark Zuckerberg — along with Harvard University roommates Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin — launches the social networking site exclusively for elite U.S. colleges. Facebook hits 1 million users just 10 months later.]]> http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/109897444.jpg Facebook will officially have been around for a decade on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. Take a look back at some of the social network's biggest highlights from the last 10 years.

Photo Credit: Juana Arias/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Turns 10]]> Tue, 04 Feb 2014 12:00:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/zuckrberg.JPG

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg appeared on the "Today" show Tuesday to talk about the social media site's long journey from a dorm room at Harvard University to  a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ.

"It's been a pretty amazing journey," he told host Savannah Guthrie. "It's so rare to have the opportunity to touch a billion people's lives."

Facebook is turning 10 on Tuesday, and it's celebrating its decade online with some new features and some long-earned self-congratulations.

Zuckerberg on Tuesday took to his own Facebook page to reflect on the last 10 years. He talked about the power of helping people "stay connected." He said the secret to building a great product is simple. "We just cared more," he wrote.

“Most companies, I think, probably would have made sure that their business was in good shape first. But we decided, you know what? We care most about building the best service we can. We're going to focus on doing that first,” he told Guthrie.

For anybody who's forgotten (or who wasn't a college student back in 2004), the social media behemoth launched on Feb. 4, 2004, from Zuckerberg's dorm room at Harvard University.

Profit, he said, was not such a driving factor. "I just like making it and knowing that it works, and having it be wildly successful is cool, I guess, but I mean, I dunno, that's not the goal," he told the Harvard Crimson in 2004.

"I'm just like a little kid. I get bored easily and computers excite me. Those are the two driving factors here," he explained to his school newspaper.

But after its launch, his site — first known as thefacebook.com — soon spread beyond the confines of a coterie of just a few colleges to garner well over a billion active users by the end of last year.

It's also overcome a much-ballyhooed yet troubled IPO, plus the $1 billion buy of photo sharing app Instagram in 2012, not to mention plenty of criticism over Facebook's efforts to protect users' privacy.

Still, the company prioritized user experience over its business model, Zuckerberg said. And it paid off.

“The result of that was that we improved the product, but we went through this year where our business wasn't as good as people wanted it to be," he said. "But you know, I really think that we did the right thing. This is our values. I mean, we want to always serve people first. And if I had to do it again I would make the same decisions all over again."

On Facebook's 10-year-old birthday, however, Zuckerberg is not worried about critics, especially ones that say users are leaving the social media site for sexier apps.

"Engagement is growing and we are helping more and more people connect," he said on "Today."

Facebook closed out 2013 with strong financial results, too, thanks to a robust new mobile presence, The New York Times reported last week.

So what's next? On Tuesday, the site unveiled a new feature called "A Look Back" that lets users make personal slideshows or movies showing favorite moments from their lives since they first joined Facebook.

In the longer term, Zuckerberg has bigger plans for his brainchild. He told Bloomberg BusinessWeek last week he wants the site to become more intuitive and to get better at helping its users.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[How to Beef Up Your Password Security]]> Fri, 31 Jan 2014 12:42:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/keyboardgeneric.jpg

Yahoo's announcement that usernames and passwords of some of its email customers have been stolen has left Yahoo's 273 million mail users wondering how safe their passwords are. The company did not disclose how many accounts have been affected. The news comes just a month after up to 110 million Target customers had either their personal information and credit card numbers compromised in a sophisticated cyber attack.

Here Are Some Tips to Ensure Your Email Account Isn't Hacked:

Did You Know?: More than 90 percent of user-generated passwords were vulnerable to hacking last year, according to a 2013 report from consulting firm Deloitte.

Employ a Longer Password: Experts and e-commerce sites long recommended that users have an eight-character password with mixed-case letters and at least one number and symbol. Such a password -– chosen from all 94 available characters on a standard keyboard – is one of 6.1 quadrillion possible combinations, according to Deloitte's report (PDF). Even 1-2 additional characters make hacking much more difficult.

Don't Get Lazy on Your Mobile Device: Mobile devices, such as phone and tablets and even gaming devices with Wi-Fi capability make people less likely to create complicated passwords because of the multiple screens often required to see all characters. Using familiar combinations and tricks to make passwords easier to remember, such as symbols and numbers that look similar to letters you'd use, often creates a safer password.

Don't Reuse Passwords: Password reuse among multiple sites is an even bigger problem, allowing hackers who've obtained one password to access other services protected by the same code.

Keep Your Password Stash Encrypted: Never keep your passwords in an unsecured place. Employ a password manager or password vault to create and remember all your passwords. Use an extremely strong password to access it, or employ multi-factor authentication.

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