Of all the spying programs revealed by former IT contractor Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) was quick to deny exploiting users by impersonating Facebook.
Shortly after reports surfaced accusing the NSA of mimicking a Facebook server to help infect user PCs, users were upset - and the NSA wanted to offer a public statement.
"Recent media reports that allege NSA has infected millions of computers around the world with malware, and that NSA is impersonating U.S. social media or other websites, are inaccurate," the NSA said via its Public Affairs Office. "NSA uses its technical capabilities only to support lawful and appropriate foreign intelligence operations, all of which must be carried out in strict accordance with its authorities."
Google has just finished rolling out its new online marketplace for third-party applications designed to enhance Google Drive. Google says that the marketplace is available from within Google Docs and Sheets, and can easily be accessed by clicking on the add-on tab at the top of a documents page. There have been chrome extensions that integrate into Docs before, but this is the first time that Google has released an official marketplace for apps that directly integrate.
Called Add-On's the apps are created by third-party developers and enhance the service by adding handy features such as the ability to sign documents, create custom templates, add images with annotations, and quickly generate macros for spreadsheets. Other apps allow users to quickly and easily cite sources, write footnotes, and build bibliographies by simply searching the web for the desired sources.
Traditionally coins minted in the US have a very distinctive round and flat shape, but a new release from the US Mint has all but shattered that pattern. A new commemorative design will soon roll out that honors the National Baseball Hall of Fame's 75th birthday in the form of the country's first curved coin. The round coin takes the profile of a baseball and is featured in both gold and silver mintings.
The coins profile and design are loosely based on the curved shape of the International Year of Astronomy coins minted by France back in 2009, as well as Australia's Southern Cross coins. Designed by California Artist, Cassie McFarland, the coins feature a baseball on the front and a catchers mitt on the reverse. Her winning "Hand full of Gold" design was chosen from a pool of 178 entries and was based off of a baseball glove she used as a kid.
Electronic education kits were one of the highlights of my youth, and I spent many hours attaching resistors, wires and other components together via those little shiny springs. Today with microcontroller boards such as the Arduino being as cheap as they are, educational electronic kits have taken on a whole new look, and ease of use. The Portable Dual Arduino Micro XPlorerBoard is one of those new easy to use educational electronic boards.
Featuring support for two Arduino Micro boards, the XPlorerBoard makes life easy by eliminating loose parts, and adding in very handy features such as a 3V and 5V logic level converter, on-board power supply, and a full compliment of analog and digital sensors. Since the XPlorerBoard was designed for education, the entire board is coated in an anti-static coating and all of the leads on the bottom are protected as well.
The entire board along with accessories fits neatly into a standard binder as well, making the board portable and easy to carry to class or your favorite MakerSpace. The XPlorerBoard is being offered through a KickStarter campaign right now and appears to be one of the best value educational development kits on the market at the moment. Best of all, the XPlorerBoard is a product of Savanna, Georgia, and not too far from my home town!
Microsoft has been offering its online version of Office called Office 365 for a while. Microsoft first envisioned this as a way to get people to pay for constantly updated productivity programs rather than buying a copy of Office once and never upgrading.
Microsoft announced this week that it was cutting the price of Office 365 for individual users. That subscription is called Office 365 Personal. Currently Microsoft Office 365 Premium for households sells for $9.99 monthly and lets users access the service on up to five computers.
Some people don't have that many computers or that money people needing access. Office 365 Personal will cost a bit less at $6.99 per month or $69.99 annually for one user. Office 365 Home Premium is getting a name change to Office 365 Home.
Almost everyone with a smartphone has taken a selfie at some point and Apple is looking to make the process even easier with the creation of a new section in the iTunes App Store geared specifically towards selfie apps. The section will be filled with apps such as Snapchat, Justin Bieber's Shots, and much more.
I had no idea that there were even apps in existance that were geared toward selfie image generation except for Snapchat, and I consider that more of a photo messaging app than anything else. This past year, the word Selfie gained notoriety when it was officially added to the Oxford Dictionary which had the following to say on the words addition. "If it is good enough for the Obamas or the pope, then it is good enough for Word of the Year."
Google Street View is a cool service that shows you what streets and landmarks look like at the level you would see in a car or on foot. Back in 2012, Google took a tour of the Grand Canyon with a Trekker backpack that let you virtually explore trails around the canyon.
Google has now strapped one of those Trekker systems into a raft and explored the Colorado River. The footage is very cool and makes you feel like you are right on the water. The footage required two Trekker cameras attached to rafts shooting images every 2.5 seconds.
The journey down the Colorado River was made in partnership with American Rivers organization that tries to protect endangered rivers. Google worked with Arizona River Runners for the actual journey. Google started at Lee's Ferry and ended at Pearce Ferry.
When it comes to crowdfunding, Paypal is not the most popular of choices when it comes to transaction processing. This is because the company has withheld funds in the past when taking crowdfunding donations on behalf of project creators. This is a problem because the whole idea of crowdfunding is to generate the funding needed to move forward with a project. Paypal is looking to change its image with the crowdfunding crowd by altering its policies on the subject.
PayPal's Chief Risk Officer, Tomer Barel, says that his company now contacts campaign owners early in the crowdfunding process in an effort to better understand the projects goals. Different government regulations apply based on if the campaign is fundraising or simply offering pre-order sales. PayPal also has varying policies based on this as well and says it will not put limits on the account if the campaign is strictly fundraising. Restrictions will apply however if the capaign is strictly a pre-order type project. "We enable their campaigns without interrupting payments under the condition that the campaign owner is explicit and transparent to their contributors that there is no guarantee of delivery regarding the rewards being offered upon contribution," Barel says.
AT&T has been working on an acquisition of Leap Wireless for a while. Leap is a pre paid carrier favored by mobile users that don't like contracts. AT&T's purchase will cost it $1.2 billion and the FCC gave the deal the green light this week.
Leap Wireless is also the owner of the Cricket brand of devices and service. The deal was first announced in July 2013 and no objections were raised by the DOJ against the deal. That meant all that AT&T needed was FCC approval.
The FCC had initially said that the deal raised concerns about competition in the marketplace. However, the FCC later decided that any concerns about reduced competition were offset by AT&T's plans to roll out LTE services on spectrum that Leap is currently using.
When the newest consoles on the market were the Xbox 360 and the PS3, Microsoft routinely outsold Sony in the console wars. There were a few times when Sony sold more PS3 consoles than Microsoft sold Xbox units, but not often. Things have been different with the latest generation consoles.
Since the PS4 launched it has handily outsold the Xbox One. That is thanks in part to the PS4 being about $100 cheaper at launch. The sales gap between the PS4 and Xbox One has narrowed. Microsoft is bragging that the PS4 only led sales by a "narrow margin" in February.
That margin must have been slim to get Microsoft to talk sales numbers. The software giant offered no sales stats for the Xbox One in January. NPD analyst Liam Callahan said that the Xbox One sold "over 90% of what the PS4 sold in terms of unit sales."