Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

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iPad overload? 77% of parents polled believed that using tablets was beneficial for their children

Screen time can be bad for young children, but it’s not all terrible news for parents who rely on tablets to occupy their offspring

“I recently watched my sister perform an act of magic,” says Nick Bilton at The New York Times. Bilton was sitting in a restaurant with his sister and her two children, ages 4 and 7, and the chattering, fighting kids were keeping the older siblings from conversing. “Like a magician quieting a group of children by pulling a rabbit out of a hat, my sister reached into her purse and produced two shiny Apple iPads,” handing one to each child. The kids fell “eerily” silent for the rest of the meal.

This is hardly a unique occurrence. In restaurants, churches, and other public places all over the U.S. (and probably the developed world), harried parents pull out their tablets or smartphones for a spell of peace and quiet for them and any other adults around them. And, like Bilton’s sister, many of these parents feel “slightly guilty.” Are iPads and other magical child-quieting tablets dangerous for a child’s development?

“I did not have an answer,” Bilton writes, “and although some people might have opinions, no one has a true scientific understanding of what the future might hold for a generation raised on portable screens.” Worse, says Mat Honan at Wired, “it seems like there is simply no way of knowing.”


The American Academy of Pediatrics is unambiguous about time spent with screens. It says any at all is bad for children under a certain age…. We made an effort to follow AAP guidelines and prevent her from getting any screen time at all before she was 2. But honestly? On long flights, we’ve loaded upSesame Street on the iPad before takeoff. Parenting is hard…. And, really, is there harm in an app? In the age of the educational app, those AAP guidelines seem, well, quaint. [Wired]

Tablet manufacturers are much less conflicted than parents, of course. You can buy everything from a tablet PC made especially for toddlers to a special iPhone case designed specifically so your infant child can play with your portable touchscreen device without breaking your expensive gadget or ordering thousands of dollars worth of apps. And even some early-childhood educators aresurprisingly sanguine about tablets for tots.

Three kindergarten classes in Australia are participating in study of “the educational benefits of iPad use for pre-school children,” says Matthew Dunn at Australia’s The Standard. Specifically, they want to know if using iPad apps to create art, study creative crafts like puppetry, and read e-books can help kids prepare for school. “There have been past studies examining young children’s use of iPads and smart phone technology but this is the first to link the use with literacy and numeracy through creative applications,” says Sandra Gattenhof at the Queensland University of Technology.

If you want a “long-term double-blind study to prove an interactive smartphone app is different than a TV show,” which is probably bad for kids, well, too bad, says Wired‘s Honan. “The first generation of toddlers that played with iPhones is not even out of elementary school. A child born the day the iPhone shipped would be kindergarten age today. We are all fumbling through this new world, and nobody knows what the long-term implications are.”

Actually there has been some potentially relevant research, and it’s surprisingly hopeful for iPad-wielding parents, says the Times‘ Bilton. Assuming, of course, parents pick the right apps.


A report published last week by the Millennium Cohort Study, a long-term study group in Britain that has been following 19,000 children born in 2000 and 2001, found that those who watched more than three hours of television, videos, or DVDs a day had a higher chance of conduct problems, emotional symptoms and relationship problems by the time they were 7 than children who did not. The study, of a sample of 11,000 children, found that children who played video games — often age-appropriate games — for the same amount of time did not show any signs of negative behavioral changes by the same age. [New York Times]

But experts agree pretty unanimously that, at least at the dinner table, talking (or even drawing with crayons) is better than zoning out over an iDevice, both for developing social skills and even learning to cope with or grow from boredom.


“I have no fear that my child will only be able to form relationships with avatars,” says Wired‘s Honan. Nor, like some parents, “do I think that it’s imperative to dunk her in the digital stream from an early age” so she’ll be able to swim better as she grows. Like pretty much everything else, “there’s some sort of weird balance we have to fumble our way into finding.” But here’s a cautionary tale:


Last year, we took our daughter to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a free concert in Golden Gate Park. We met a few other parents, who had toddlers of their own. Before the band started playing, one began throwing a tantrum. He wanted his iPod Touch, and so he got it. Then the Preservation Hall Jazz Band began to play, and all the children began to dance and laugh and play in the grass. Except for the one who sat on the blanket, staring at a screen, oblivious to all else.

Should Your 2-Year-Old Be Using an iPad?

From “Baby Touch: Peekaboo” to “Moo, Baa, La La La!,” iPad apps for babies are flooding the market. Developers say the apps are educational, and busy parents know that a digital babysitter can buy them a few minutes of valuable time. But is the iPad a healthy thing for young kids?

Apple’s iTunes now stocks more than 700 apps for children, including ones that promise to “develop hand-eye coordination and focusing skills in young babies” or teach “fine motor skills” to infants “from 0 to 2.5 years old.”

As Healthland reported on Tuesday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has advised parents — again — to eliminate screen time for children under 2, citing concerns about language delays and disrupted sleep. The academy’s new report drew on studies showing that TV, whether it’s the parent or the child watching, interferes with “talk time” between parent and child, which is crucial to language development.

Does the TV effect apply to iPads too? That’s not clear. “We just don’t have the data yet,” says Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician and member of the AAP.

Perhaps it depends on how you’re using it. Tablets used like a TV should fall under the same guidelines, says Tanya Altmann, a Los Angeles-based pediatrician and author of the best-selling parenting book Mommy Calls. However, she doesn’t rule out the possibility that interactive apps may have some value for toddlers. “In some ways, applications are just newer versions of the game that we used to play when we were kids — you tap the cow and it says ‘moo,’” she says.

But even apps that simulate conventional toys don’t teach children the crucial skills that come from physically engaging the world in three dimensions, says Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He points to iPad apps that replicate building blocks and Legos. “Surely we would not want that to substitute for actually getting blocks and building something,” he says. “This is not how the real world works, and babies do need to learn how the real world works.”

So, the jury’s still out on tablets for toddlers, but research suggests that educational apps may enhance the learning experience of slightly older children. A recent study funded by the Department of Education showed that the PBS Kids iPhone app “Martha Speaks” boosted 3-to-7-year-olds vocabularies by as much as 31% over the course of two weeks.

Rose Luckin, a professor of learner-centered design at the University of London, has found that tablet-type devices can actually spark the sort of social interaction central to the learning process. She found that 5- and 6-year-olds who recorded school activities on tablets and replayed them for their parents tended to learn better. “One of the key benefits of technologies such as the iPad is that they can become a focus for conversations between parents and children,” she says. “If the device is right in the middle of the family, in the kitchen, in the lap, then as a parent, you’re much more able to have those kinds of shared experiences.”

In other words, tablets might not be all bad if they generate “talk time,” rather than replace it. As with anything else, says Luckin, moderation and common sense are key. “If a child just sits all day playing on the iPad on her own, then I’m not sure she’s getting the benefits,” she says. “My argument about the value of these devices is that they can add to parental time, not take away from it.”

When parents are busy, though, the best option may simply be to turn the gadgets off, rather than letting kids use them unattended, says Altmann. “We know parents can’t be with their children 24/7,” she says. “But don’t forget that when we were kids, our moms would just give us toys to play with on the ground and say, ‘Play.’ Just give them some time to explore occasionally on their own. They don’t have to have external stimulation every second of the day.”

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Mars vs. Comet in 2014: Scientists Prepare for Red Planet Sky Show

Mars vs. Comet in 2014: Scientists Prepare for Red Planet Sky Show

A close encounter between Mars and Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) in 2014 is creating both opportunity and anxiety in scientific circles. Scientists are in the early stages of assembling a comet-watching campaign that uses a spacecraft currently orbitingthe Red Planet, as well as rovers on the Martian surface.

Scientists are also investigating what techniques could be used to prevent cometary debris from hitting Mars-orbiting spacecraft as the comet and planet converge.

The Mars-bound comet was discovered by Rob McNaught on Jan. 3 at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. Scientists estimate that this comet arrived from our solar system’s distant Oort cloud and has been on a more than 1-million-year journey. The comet could contain volatile gases that short-period comets often lack due to their frequent returns to the sun’s neighborhood.

Scientists expect the comet’s closest approach to Mars to occur on Oct. 19, 2014, at about 11:45 a.m. PDT (18:45 GTM).

At that time, the comet will be on the sunward side of Mars. The comet and its tail should be a stunning sight in the predawn Martian sky just before the closest approach, as well as in the post-dusk sky just after the closest approach. [Photos: Amazing Comets of 2013]


Will the comet hit Mars?

The close encounter will give scientists the opportunity to make observations, said Richard Zurek, chief scientist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) Mars Program Office and project scientist forNASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

“Given the present uncertainties of the comet’s path and size, it is difficult to do any detailed planning now, but that will change by the end of the year, with continued observations of the comet,” Zurek told

New observations of Siding Spring have allowed NASA’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) Office at the JPL to refine the comet’s orbit.

The latest orbital plot places the comet’s closest approach to Mars a little farther out than previously estimated — at about 73,000 miles (117,000 kilometers) from the surface of the Red Planet.

Therefore, the chance that the comet will hit Mars has diminished to about 1 in 8,000, JPL NEO experts said.

Future observations of the comet are expected to refine the orbit  predictions further.

Comet excitement

Zurek said the comet’s close encounter with Mars is an exciting prospect for researchers. For example, MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment — or HiRISE camera — should get several pixels across the comet nucleus.

“So, there should be some fascinating science that could result from observations by various instruments at Mars of the nucleus, coma and, of course, the tail,” Zurek said.

NASA’s  Curiosity and Opportunity are located near Mars’equator, so their best views of the comet from the Martian surface may come when the comet is visible during the predawn hours, low over the southeast horizon.

However, “More information is needed before we can understand what they might see,” Zurek said.

Safety measures on Mars

There is a slight possibility that the comet could graze ? or even hit ? Mars, Zurek said. “If that is not ruled out by future observations of the comet, we will have to start thinking about what precautions we should take,” he said.

Those safety measures would include positioning the orbiters so that they are on the other side of Mars at the time of comet impact.

“We are not worrying about that right now, since the probability is very low and likely to be ruled out in the next few months by continued monitoring of the comet’s progress,” Zurek said.

Even tiny comet dust particles traveling with a relative velocity of 56 km per second (just over 125,200 mph, or 201,600 km/h) could sandblast Mars-orbiting spacecraft. The satellites could potentially be ordered to turn away or feather their solar panels to mitigate the possible dust impacts.


Comet ISON campaign: a rehearsal

Siding Spring isn’t the only comet that will approach Mars within the next two years. Comet ISON, discovered in September 2012, will streak through the inner solar system this October and could be one of the brightest comets ever seen. [Photos of Comet ISON]

However, according to Zurek, the distance between Siding Spring and Mars will be 100 times smaller than the distance between Comet ISON and Mars.

“That’s close enough that the orbiters — Mars Odyssey, MRO, and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express — at least could see structure in the coma, and tail and make estimates perhaps of particle size, etc.,” Zurek said. “ISON observations also would help us practice for Siding Spring’s much closer passage a year later.”

“We are certainly expecting to observe Siding Spring with HiRISE and other MRO instruments,” added Alfred McEwen, director of the Planetary Image Research Lab at the University of Arizona in Tucson and the principal investigator for MRO’s HiRISE.

“Potential hazards to the spacecraft and instruments will be analyzed,” McEwen told But the probability that this will be a major hazard seems low — at least to me — but the trajectory and comet properties remain poorly known. We have plenty of time to study this and get ready.”

Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. He is former director of research for the National Commission on Space and co-author of Buzz Aldrin’s new book, “Mission to Mars – My Vision for Space Exploration,” out in May from National Geographic. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

Copyright 2013, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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YouTube Closing, Google Nose, Gmail Blue & More!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Smells like April Fools’ Day. You know, immature and cheesy, with a quick, bright finish. At least according to Google Nose, one of the latest additions to Google’s long line of new technologies that never seem to quite make it past April 2.

Much like in 2012, the April Fools’ Day pranks arrived early from Google – and it brought the shocking news that YouTube is shutting down to prepare to pick the Best Video ever. Read on for an ongoing recap of all the practical jokes.

Closing the YouTube Contest Competition


YouTube began in 2005 as a contest to find the best video in the world. And now it’s finally time to pick the winner, the YouTube Blog announced..

“Tonight at midnight, will no longer be accepting entries,” said Tom Liston, Competition Director at YouTube, said in the video above, which features many stars from viral video, and was posted hours before it officially became April 1 in the U.S. “After eight amazing years, it is finally time to review everything that has been uploaded to our site and begin the process of selecting a winner.” (more…)

In an elaborate ruse, the world’s most popular video site announces it’s been nothing but a contest site this whole time and says it’s going dark for the next decade.
Is the world's biggest video site about to go offline for a decade?

Is the world’s biggest video site about to go offline for a decade?


amd and nvdia

an impressive showing by the most powerful technology company in the graphics segment. But not the only one. This week, AMD stepped up with a plan to convert one of its biggest weaknesses into a significant strength. On top of this, both companies are chasing the cloud opportunity, which could invalidate all traditional approaches to high-performance gaming along with bypassing most of the limitations.

Let’s explore the different strategies from AMD and Nvidia this week, and the impact of the growing focus on cloud gaming.

Nvidia’s mobile-hinged strategy

The most important part of Nvidia’s presentation was the announcement that the company would bring the Cuda processing platform from computers to tablets and smartphones by the end of 2015. This is currently the fastest growing gaming segment. If Nvidia gains a foothold for Cuda on mobile hardware with this move, developers will be able to cheaply and easily shuttle games between mobile and PC platforms. Building for Cuda would potentially give them huge economies of scale, providing the financial incentive to favor Nvidia over other platforms.

However, currently Nvidia, while a major player, doesn’t dominate mobile. Apple holds that position, thanks to the iPad. With targeted a 2015 release for Cuda in a market measured in 100s of millions, it could take years to reach critical mass. So to be successful, Nvidia will either need to get Apple, Samsung and Amazon on board, or substantially eclipse their products. No matter what, the gaming experience will need to be consistent enough across mobile devices to entice developers with the ability to develop once for many devices. (more…)

External hard drives are one place to back up your data.

External hard drives are one place to back up your data.

If you haven’t backed up your digital data yet, you are a fool. No offense. Seriously, though, it is so, so, so easy to lose everything. And guess what: A lot of people who want you to buy stuff have made up a holiday around the concept. Think Valentine’s Day, only this time it’s a good idea. Happy World Backup Day, everyone! Marketing scam or no, we urge you to celebrate.

Backing up your data isn’t just practical — say, if you want to transfer everything from your current computer to a new one — it’s an incredibly important safeguard against total digital loss. Whether you get hacked, your hard drive crashes, or you accidentally spill a cup of coffee across your keyboard, you’ll want to make sure that a copy of your collection of Skrillex albums and selfies are safely stored elsewhere for retrieval.

Here are some ways to back up your computer and prevent digital loss. Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list, so go ahead and hit us in the comments with your best techniques. (more…)