Friday, 28 February 2014

Emeka Ike accused of owing millions in rent

Lagos - Nollywood actor Emeka Ike has been accused by his landlord of owing up to N8.5 million in rent, according to Nigerian Entertainment Today (NET).

Ike's landlord, Samuel Akintan, has said that the last time that he paid rent was in 2011.

He also says that the actor has refused to leave the house, despite attempts to kick him out.

Ike has also been accused of issuing a dud cheque of N1.5 million to Akintan.

Ike has been active in Nollywood for over 20 years and has appeared in more than 70 films.

Read more at NET.

Beyoncé binges on McDonalds

Los Angeles - Beyoncé spent £700 (R10 300) at McDonald's after her concert in Manchester.

The Drunk in Love singer splashed out at the fast food chain following her performance in North West England on Tuesday night, and ordered so much, other customers were left hungry.

Local resident Helen Nugent said: "I'd stopped off on my way home from the theatre to buy a cheeseburger at McDonald's as I was feeling peckish.

"The lovely girl at the till looked a bit shell-shocked and I soon found out why - she told me, 'Oh my god, I've just done an order for £700 for Beyoncé's 11 tour buses.'"

The 32-year-old star and her dancers worked up an appetite at the Phones 4 U Arena performing tracks such as XO and Haunted from her latest album Beyoncé and hit singles from the past including Single Ladies and Irreplaceable, but made sure to keep some of their order healthy.

Helen told Mancunian Matters: "She then went on to tell me, 'I made 50 portions of large fries and 22 boxes of Chicken McNuggets. 22! And 26 Big Macs! There are a lot of dancers on her tour, you'd think they eat healthily. Mind you, they did order a lot of salad.'

"I felt a bit of a twit after that, just asking for a solitary cheeseburger."

Beyoncé has been known to spoil her tour crew before, splashing out £1 444 on a take-away from peri-peri chicken restaurant Nando's after her headline set at V Festival last summer.

Smartphones dissect lives of owners

Barcelona - Precisely how many steps have you taken today? Exactly how fast is your heart beating? Really, just how clean are your teeth?
Your smartphone and, apparently, you are fascinated to know the detailed answers to these questions and other minutiae of your life that would inevitably bore a wider audience.
Smartphone makers and application developers at the 24 February 27 February World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain, are targeting this booming interest in navel-gazing data.
"This is about the 'augmented self' or 'quantified self'," said Jean-Laurent Poitou, head of technology strategy at the Dublin-based consultancy Accenture.
"There is an expectation to be in better health, be more active, eat better," he explained.
"A combination of technological factors have made this simple and cheap," Poitou said, as electronic sensors are miniaturised and component prices fall.
A string of major manufacturers announced new software and devices in Barcelona to satisfy the trend.
Track your every moveFor an industry confronting a slowdown in smartphone sales in the most developed, and most profitable, markets, it offers a welcome new source of revenues.
Research house Canalys predicts sales of connected bracelets and watches will surge to 17 million units this year, and 45 million in 2017.
"Log your life," exhorts the new slogan of Sony Mobile as it revealed its SmartBand SWR10, which connects by Bluetooth wireless technology to your smartphone.
The waterproof "life-logging device" keeps a record of your movements; the photographs you take; your communications and even the music you listen to. Press a Life Bookmark to capture all the data at a key moment, like lunch with friends. It will measure your sleep cycle, too, to decide the best moment to wake you.
At the end of the day, you can use the Lifelog application to replay your entire day on your Android-based smartphone or tablet.
You can watch a digital representation of yourself walking, cycling or driving, moving past icons representing data such as photographs you took or messages you received.
China's Huawei showed off the smartphone-connected TalkBand B bracelet with a pedometer and pop-out earpiece for telephone calls.
Samsung's Gear Fit bracelet wowed critics in Barcelona with a curved touch-screen display that wraps around the wrist. It will keep tight watch over your heart rate, and even give you tips when you run, prodding you to pick up the pace or ease up depending on your effort.
At the world's biggest mobile industry fair in Barcelona, you can also find smart scales, for example to analyse your weight-loss progress, and even a smart toothbrush.
Brush teeth in an airportThe growing desire to parse each detail of ourselves now stretches even to the smartphone itself: Samsung's new flagship device, the Galaxy S5, has a sensor on the back which you can touch with your fingerprint to check your pulse.
"Today we can see the smartphone's potential to change people's habits," said Michael Cohen-Dumani, head of Procter & Gamble's Oral-B brand.
"It is really that trend towards the 'quantified self'," he told AFP.
"But it's true that nobody ever thought about the mouth," he said, proudly unveiling the world's first smart toothbrush, which divides your tooth cleaning in to four 30-second segments, checks the pressure you apply, and gives you feedback on your performance via your smartphone.
The number of steps you have taken, your weight, or how you brush your teeth: all these data are synchronised with an application on your smartphone, which tracks your activity as the months go by.
To motivate users, the applications give you a challenge such as walking 1 000 steps a day; a reward such as this message: "Congratulations, your teeth are shining" or a gentle reprimand: "Better next time".
US manufacturer Fitbit, leader with 60% of the connected fitness device market, says its smart bracelet encourages owners to move more, eat better and sleep better.
"You receive regular notifications like: 'still 2 000 steps to go and you've finished your day'," explained Fitbit's marketing director for Europe, Benoit Raimbault.
"When you get to the 10 000 steps, the bracelet vibrates."
These connected objects can instil competition, too, he explained, allowing friends to share goals on social networks and compare how they fare in reaching them.
For the toothbrush, the goals have an unusual educational bent. You take challenges and proudly share them on line: brushing your teeth in an airport, for example.

Mobile device data in SA is set to grow exponentially. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

It's a solid... it's a liquid... it's a dropleton

Paris - Scientists said on Wednesday they had discovered a new type of microscopic particle cluster that is found in solid materials but strangely behaves like a liquid.
They called it the "dropleton".
The new entity, infinitely small and with a blink-and-you-miss-it lifespan, is a quasiparticle - a combination of other, fundamental particles with unusual properties that exist in solids.
"The dropleton is a new element - a stable building block to build more complicated many-particle constructions in solids," study co-author Mackillo Kira of the Philipps-University Marburg in Germany told AFP of the discovery.
"Our discovery adds a new element to the 'periodic table' of existing quasiparticles in solids."
Each dropleton or "quantum droplet" is thought to comprise about five electrons and five quantum "holes" - spaces in solid matter where an electron once was, according to a paper published in the journal Nature.
Stimulated by light, this combination of smaller particles briefly condense into a "droplet" with characteristics of liquid water, which includes that it can have ripples.
The dropleton exists for a mere 25 picoseconds (trillionths of a second).
Though fleeting, this is long enough for researchers to study how light interacts with specialised forms of matter, according to a statement from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which took part in the study.
The dropleton was discovered when researchers bombarded a semiconductor made of gallium arsenide with lasers at a rate of 100 million pulses per second in search of new quasiparticles.
The main use of the discovery is to understand more about how photons, or particles of light, can react with matter.
But the dropleton's high sensitivity to light could also give it an application in light-detecting electronic devices.
Another example of a quasiparticle is the exciton, which is comprised of one electron and one "hole", attracted to one another by electrostatic forces.

DRC hopes to change world with traffic robots

Kinshasa - Can giant robots with a deep voice and massive arms be the answer to easing traffic chaos in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo?

A small co-operative, which developed the novel solution and is testing two robots at key intersections, thinks so and wants to promote the concept across the country, Africa and the world.

Initial feedback is positive, from both the public and officials.

"God bless those who invented it", said taxi bus driver Franck Mavuzi stuck in traffic. "The robot is good."

Like many African capitals, Kinshasa, a city of 10 million people, has a reputation for chaotic driving and huge traffic jams. Tricolour traffic lights are rare, many cars are old and battered and not all drivers are mindful of the highway code.

And traffic police, who earn minimal salaries, are often accused of extorting money from motorists.

'Made in Congo'

"When the robot stops the traffic you can see that everybody stops and the pedestrians can cross without a problem", said taxi driver Mavuzi.

TV2Africa complied a news clip illustrating how exactly the Robot works

"And the traffic police bother us too much. Let's leave robots to do the job", he said.

The first model, which towers at 2.5m tall, was deployed last June at the busy Lumumba Boulevard in the central Limete district.

"Drivers, you should make way for pedestrians", it booms, raising one arm and lowering another while flashing red and green lights signal cars to stop or carry on.

"We began with this one, which is simply there to offer safe passage" to pedestrians, said Therese Ir Izay Kirongozi, who founded Women's Technology to provide employment for Congolese women with engineering degrees.

Her seven-member team which despite the name includes four men develops the robots in a small workshop with peeling walls and rudimentary equipment.

In October, a more sophisticated model designed to control traffic flow was deployed at a junction in front of parliament.

Beneath a solar panel providing power, it swivels its torso. A green light on its breastplate turns red while it raises an arm, also fitted with lights mimicking a real-live traffic policeman stopping one line of traffic and letting another through.

"There are many robots in the world, but a robot handling road safety and traffic control, that's truly 'Made in Congo'", Kirongozi said.

"We must sell our expertise to other countries, as well as central Africa, and why not the United States, Europe and Asia", she said, hoping the project can create more jobs in the vast DR Congo where development has been hampered by repeated warfare, notably in the restive east.

'600 dangerous intersections'

Part of the team is due to show off the creation at international trade fairs in Canada and Switzerland in April.

A traffic robot costs about $15 000 to build, Kirongozi said.

Her own restaurant and leisure firm, Planete J, is currently covering costs but she hopes the robots will eventually turn a profit.

"This is a positive thing in the business of road safety", said Val Manga, head of the national road safety commission. "We need to multiply these intelligent robots to install them at various intersections in the towns and urban agglomerations of our country."

The solar panels that power the robots could prove a major asset in a city where whole districts still lack electrical power. Made of aluminium, the robots are designed to resist a harsh equatorial climate with high temperatures, humidity and massive downpours.

A sophisticated electronic detection system tells them when pedestrians are waiting to cross a street. Cameras built into its eyes and its shoulders provide constant video footage of traffic flow.

"When the robot captures images, they are sent over the Internet to a centre where they are stored and could be used to prosecute people who have committed offences", said video surveillance expert Claude Diasuka who is part of the project.

For the moment, all data belongs to Women's Technology. But pointing to money raked in by Western countries for driving offences, Kirongozi said such a system here could guarantee earnings for communities that want to invest in the robots.

In Kinshasa alone, "we have identified 600 dangerous intersections and complicated places" where robots could be put to work, she said.


(YouTube)

Nasa discovers 715 new worlds

Washington - Nasa on Wednesday announced a torrent of new planet discoveries, hailing a "bonanza" of 715 worlds now known outside the solar system thanks to the Kepler space telescope's planet-hunting mission.

A new method for verifying potential planets led to the volume of new discoveries from Kepler, which aims to help humans search for other worlds that may be like Earth.

"What we have been able to do with this is strike the mother lode, get a veritable exoplanet bonanza", Jack Lissauer, a planetary scientist at Nasa, told reporters.

"We have almost doubled just today the number of planets known to humanity", he said.

The 715 newly verified planets are orbiting 305 different stars.

The latest announcement brings the number of known planets to nearly 1 700.

Planetary candidates

Not much is known about the composition of these distant planets and whether they would truly have the conditions that would support life, such as a rocky surface, water and a distance from their stars that leaves them neither too hot nor too cold.

Four of them are potentially in the habitable zone of their stars and are about the size of Earth, Nasa said.

Most of the new discoveries are in "multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system", and 95% are between the size of Earth and Neptune, which is four times larger than our planet, said the US space agency.

Most are also very close to their stars.

"The Kepler team continues to amaze and excite us with their planet hunting results", said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for Nasa's science mission directorate.

The new method for verifying planets relies on a statistical technique that can be applied to multiple planets at once.

Before, scientists confirmed each planet individually based on recording the number of times it passed in front of its star. Three of these transits were enough to confirm a planet.

The discoveries announced on Wednesday were all initially detected in the first two years of Kepler's observations, from 2009 to 2011, and confirmed with the new statistical method.

The Kepler space telescope observes some 150 000 stars, more than 3 600 of which are presumed to be planetary candidates.

Until now, 961 of Kepler's planet candidates had been confirmed.

Kepler was launched in March 2009, and last year lost the use of two of its reaction wheels that helped keep it precisely oriented. Scaled down plans for the telescope, called K2, have been drawn up and submitted to reviewers at Nasa.

The latest findings are to be published 10 March in The Astrophysical Journal.


Smartphone companies beef up its cameras

Seoul - Expect sharper, clearer selfies this year.

Samsung has beefed up the camera in its Galaxy S5 smartphone due for April release and added smarter camera software, following Sony and Nokia in their upgrades of handset cameras.

The tweaks mean smartphone photos, ubiquitous nowadays because of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, will be closer in quality to images captured by digital single-lens reflex cameras, also known as DSLR.

How to give a super-thin smartphone the power of a DSLR camera that can capture moving images with clarity is a key challenge for the likes of Samsung, Sony, Nokia and LG as they try to differentiate their offerings in a crowded handset market.

Their efforts to make smartphone cameras more powerful have taken a toll on the compact, point-and-shoot camera market, but catching up to the high-end cameras used by professional photographers had appeared a far-fetched ambition.

Software trickery

The gap is getting narrower thanks mainly to improvements in camera software and other technologies, but may never close completely.

The global wireless show that wraps up in Barcelona on Thursday showed smartphone makers using software trickery to offset their camera weaknesses: inferior image sensors and lack of optical zoom lens. The companies are also making photo manipulation on the phone easier to learn than manually controlling DSLR cameras.

Instead of touting their smartphones as thinner, lighter or bigger screened, Samsung, Sony and LG were boasting how their latest mobile gadgets can record ultra-high definition videos known as 4K, take big-pixel pictures without a second of delay and capture clearer images even at a low-light settings and when a subject is moving.

One trend in smartphone camera this year will be phase detection autofocus, previously available only in cameras with interchangeable lens, said Chris Chute, a director at research company IDC.

Samsung showcased the feature in the Galaxy S5, the latest version of the South Korean company's flagship smartphone. It reduces the time it takes to focus on a subject to 0.3 second so even when the subject is moving, the image can be captured with a sharp edge, said Seshu Madhavapeddy, Samsung's senior vice president for US product and technology.

"Now that phones are starting to have this, consumers will only be more likely to use phones for not just everyday pictures, but more and more for special event photography",
 Chute said.

With the 16 megapixel rear camera in the Galaxy S5, it is possible to preview the result of applying high dynamic range imaging to pictures. HDR imaging usually helps create better pictures in extreme lighting conditions but with digital cameras, it is processed after snapping a photo.

Lure buyers

Samsung and LG also showed how their high-end smartphones can selectively blur and sharpen a picture by tapping the area a user wants to adjust. This feature, which adds depth to a photo, was a major trait in DSLR cameras.

While DSLR cameras did this trick in the image's raw data by changing the lens aperture, Samsung's S5 and LG's G Pro 2 do it through software. Nokia and Sony said their latest smartphones have similar features.

Nokia is also betting big on powerful camera features to lure buyers from Samsung and Apple Inc. Among Nokia's major products is the Lumia 1020 smartphone announced last year, which can take 38 megapixel images.

Larger pixels in the camera don't necessarily mean a better picture, which also depends on the lens and image sensors.

But bigger pixels allow taking photos with sufficient details for poster-size prints, something that professional photographers are keen on. Other high-end smartphone cameras are around or below 20 megapixels.

Sony's Xperia Z2 smartphone, announced at the Mobile World Congress, has a rear camera with 20.7 megapixels, same as the predecessor Z1, but Sony upgraded the camera's video-recording power to 4K. The Z2 is also equipped with technologies that allow users capture to moving subjects blur-free.

All these handsets from Samsung, Sony and LG can record ultra-HD picture quality video, something that isn't widespread among digital cameras.

"This trend is happening much faster than most predicted", said IDC's Chute of the 4K video recording in high-end smartphones.

But will these moves push smartphone cameras to reach the market reserved for premium cameras over $1 000?

"You're getting to the stage where cameras in high-end models are good enough for the majority of consumers in most environments", said Nick Dillon, a senior analyst at Ovum. But there will be a significant quality gap between the pictures from DSLR cameras and smartphones for the foreseeable future, he said.


Samsung Galaxy S5. (Lluis Gene, AFP)

Wole Soyinka rejects Centenary Award

Lagos - Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka has said that he will not accept the centenary award that the federal government plan to give him, reports NigerianWatch

Professor Soyinka feels that with the current state of the nation and the pressing issues at hand, celebrating Nigeria’s 100 years of existence should be the last thing on President Goodluck Jonathan’s mind.

To celebrate Nigerian’s centenary the Nigerian government has selected 100  prominent men and women to award, on the list include dictators like,  General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha whom where Professor Soyinka fought against in the search for a democratic government.

Read more at NigerianWatch

Justin Bieber is reportedly 'taking more drugs' than ever

Los Angeles - Justin Bieber is reportedly "smoking more weed than ever" since moving to Atlanta.


The Boyfriend hitmaker is said to have sparked concern among his friends since moving out of Los Angeles - where he had a schedule set up by people connected to his business affairs - as he no longer has any real rules or plans, with insiders claiming he spends much of his time smoking marijuana or consuming sizzurp, a cocktail of Sprite, Jolly Tancher sweets and medications codeine and promethazine which is referred to by the singer and his pals as 'lean'.

A source told TMZ: "He is constantly high. Drinking more lean, smoking more weed than ever."

The insiders claim Justin doesn't really leave his house, but is spending a lot of time working on hip hop music in his recording studio - and is "rarely sober.

The 19-year-old singer - who has caused controversy with his recent antics, including being arrested for allegedly assaulting a limo driver, and also for driving under the influence (DUI), driving with a suspended licence and resisting arrest - is said to be cutting down his inner circle, pushing away those who have ''confronted'' him about his drug use, and those who have "ratted him out" about his habits.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

3 foods that are ruining sex for you

Abuja - If you’ve ever watched great athletes like Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps perform, you will know that to be a champion, you need to eat and train like one.

When it comes to bedroom gymnastics, the same rules apply. We simply can’t go around eating like pigs while expecting to be tigers in bed, CapitalFM warns.

Fatty burgers, fried chicken and pizza

Fatty meats and cheese are known to clog up arteries and slow you down. If they can clog up large arteries that deliver blood to large muscles on your arms for example, just imagine what they do to the smaller ones in your sensitive sexy areas.

Muffins, cakes and those other baked indulgences

Delicate baked goods are often high in trans fats that not only team up with your favourite burgers to clog up your arteries, but they also lower testosterone in men. That means not only will you be unable to perform like a champ, you wouldn’t even feel like trying.

Drop the soy, lover boy

Soy based products are notoriously high in estrogen, the female hormone, and can lower a man’s sex drive. And to add insult to injury, it can also render you infertile.

Celebrities who love to masturbate

Abuja - Masturbation has been around for longer than humanity, with primates being in on the fun for millions of years. It is humans, though, who have really grabbed the bull by the horns, as it were. In fact, mankind’s affinity for self-love is encapsulated in Rule 34 of the Internet which states that if something exists, there is porn of it.

Masturbation isn’t just for sad and lonely folks, though, even some of the world’s flashiest celebs have admitted to getting down and dirty solo-style.

1.       John Mayer

You’d think the man who’s dating Katy Perry would need too much, erm, satisfaction, but John has openly admitted his penchant for personal pleasure. He says “I have masturbated myself out of serious problems in my life. The phone doesn't pick up because I'm masturbating. And I have excused myself at the oddest times so as to not make mistakes. If Tiger Woods only knew when to jerk off. It has a true market value, like gold bullion.”

2.       Robert Downey Jr.

Downey Jr has a history of addictive behaviour including alcohol and a wide range of drugs. It isn’t really a surprise, then, that he also found himself addicted to fondling. "I was a compulsive, serial masturbator,” he told the Sunday Times. At least he takes a positive opinion of his private activity "But it was the best thing I could have been. I utilised that organ and rode it for everything it was worth."

3.       James Franco

James Franco is at any one time producing, acting, writing and studying for a master’s degree. However he still finds time to indulge in a little snake charming: "I'm in hotels a lot for a lot of my life. And I don't mind it because I have a lot of stuff to do on my own. I have a lot of reading to do for school or whatever .... You asked! So, when I'm alone, I do masturbate a lot" he told the LA Times.

4.       Eva Longoria

The former Desperate Housewives star has been a vocal supporter of masturbation, saying that “the best sex I ever had was with my vibrator” in an interview. She continued to say that “I didn't begin enjoying sex until I started masturbating... It's a shame I didn't discover it sooner... Everybody should do it." You go, Eva.

5.       Dustin Hoffman

Rain Man might be a bit more advance than the other members of this list but that doesn’t stop him from holding the sausage hostage every once in a while. He’s even said that it’s a way for him to burn calories, so there’s always that.

Jury members elected for Cannes festival

Lagos - Organisers of the Young Lions Competition in Nigeria and representatives of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, CHINI Productions, have released the list of jury members for the 2014 competitions.

The national jury president is Nn’emeka Maduegbuna while Chairman is Chief Executive Officer of C&F, Porter Novelli. Other members of the team are Muyiwa Akintunde, CEO, Lead Consultant Leap Communications, Chuddy Oduenyi Managing Director of Compact Communications, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya Managing Director CMC Connect and Mike Obiajulu Meze, CEO of Winning Concepts.

This year, Nigeria is expected to present teams in six categories of the competition, namely: Cyber, Design, Film, Media, PR and Print.

The 2014 president of the creative jury is Chima Okenimkpe, Creative Director of Insight Communications. Other members are Tunde Sule, Creative Director DDB Lagos,  Sule Momoh, Creative Director 141 Worldwide, Oje Ojeaga, Head of Creative X3M, Ranti Atunwa, Creative Director TBWA, Adereti Tiny, Creative Director Yellow Brick Road and Abolaji Alausa, Creative Director of Noah’s Ark Communications.

The Media Jury will be led by Jayne Okoronkwo, Executive Director Media Integra as president while members of the team will include Dozie Okafor, Head Planning and Strategy PHD Nigeria, Oge Maduagwu, Deputy Manager, Media Strategy & Planning mediaReach OMD (who are both past winners of the competition), Etim Ekanem Senior Media Planner Globacom and Ezinne Mbonu, Executive Director Capital Media.

The organizers said they had placed more emphasis on creative ability for winning the competition and have therefore set up a second creative panel to act as faculty and jury for the Roger Hatchuel Academy Nigeria programme.

Uzo Okoye, Managing Creative Director Etu Odi Communications heads the panel.

The aim of the local competition is to provide a transparent and credible system for selecting teams that will fly the flag for Nigeria in Cannes during the international competition.

The national programme includes a full-day of training by senior advertising professionals and various tests to select Nigeria’s student delegate to the Roger Hatchuel Academy in Cannes.

Winners of the various competitions will be presented to industry professionals and the general public at a special awards dinner on March 22 by the jury presidents.

Segun Arinze defends Nollywood’s visit to Jonathan

Lagos - Segun Arinze has responded to claims that the Actors Guild of Nigeria’s (AGN) visit to Aso rock last weekend was for personal interests and had no effect on important matters that needed to be addressed, reports Nigerian Entertainment today(NET).

The claims were made by Nollywood filmmaker, Kabat Esosa.

Arinze in his reply said that the visit was conducted to discuss how to move the guild and Nollywood forward. Arinze felt that the filmmaker was unfair to criticise the visit.

Last weekend President Goodluck Jonathan hosted a handful of Nollywood actors, producers and directors who came to pay a courtesy visit to the head of state and made him a Grand Patron of the AGN.

Read more at NET

Eva to train make-up artists for free

Lagos - Rap artist Eva Alordiah will be putting her make-up expertise to use when she will train 30 people for free in the skill, offering them tricks and tips on being a make-up artist, reports Information Nigeria.

The CEO of MakeUpByOrsela made the announcement on Twitter, directing interested candidates to follow @MakeUpByOrsela to get more details.


Reekado Banks launches into the Mavin universe

Lagos - The search for talent by the boss of Mavin Records has reached a new frontier with the music producer unveiling Reekado Banks as a new artist under the label, reports 360nobs.com

This comes a week after announcing that Mavin Records also signed Di’Ja on Valentine’s Day.

Banks, whose real name is Solomon Ayoleyi Hanniel, has released his first official single under Mavin, titled Turn it up featuring Tiwa Savage. Banks is also a student in his final year at the University of Lagos studying history and strategy.

Read more at 360nobs.com

Researchers working on social media 'lie detector'

London - University researchers are working on a system that could quash rumours spreading on social media by identifying whether information is accurate.
Five European universities, led by Sheffield in northern England, are cooperating on a system that could automatically identify whether a rumour originates from a reliable source and can be verified.
The researchers said on Tuesday they hope the system will allow governments, emergency services, media and the private sector to respond more effectively to claims emerging and spreading on social media before they get out of hand.
The three-year, European Union-funded project, called PHEME, is an attempt to filter out the nuggets of factual information from the avalanche of ill-informed comment on Twitter and Facebook.
"Social networks are rife with lies and deception," the project leaders said in a statement. Such messages can have far-reaching consequences, but there is so much of it that it is impossible to analyse it in real time.
Claims during the 2011 riots in London that the London Eye observation wheel was on fire or that all the animals were let out of London Zoo were given as examples of false rumours that spread rapidly via the internet.
The research is being led by Dr Kalina Bontcheva of Sheffield University's Faculty of Engineering.
"The problem is that it all happens so fast and we can't quickly sort truth from lies," she said.
"This makes it difficult to respond to rumours, for example, for the emergency services to quash a lie in order to keep a situation calm. Our system aims to help with that, by tracking and verifying information in real time."
The project is trying to identify four types of information - speculation, controversy, misinformation, and disinformation - and model their spread on social networks.
It will try to use three factors to establish veracity: the information itself (lexical, syntactic and semantic); cross-referencing with trustworthy data sources; and the information's diffusion.
The results can be displayed to the user on screen.
"We can already handle many of the challenges involved, such as the sheer volume of information in social networks, the speed at which it appears and the variety of forms, from tweets, to videos, pictures and blog posts," said Bontcheva.
"But it's currently not possible to automatically analyse, in real time, whether a piece of information is true or false and this is what we've now set out to achieve."
The Times newspaper said the EU would meet most of the predicted €4.3m costs of the project and a final version is hoped for within 18 months.
The project is a collaboration between five universities - Sheffield, King's College London, Warwick in England, Saarland in Germany and MODUL University Vienna - and four companies - ATOS in Spain, iHub in Kenya, Ontotext in Bulgaria and swissinfo.ch.

Facebook website. (Karen Bleier, AFP)

Facebook bets big with WhatsApp buy

San Francisco - Facebook is betting huge on mobile with an eye-popping cash-and-stock deal worth up to $19bn for Internet Age smartphone messaging service WhatsApp.

The surprise mega-deal announced on Wednesday bolsters the world's biggest social network - which has more than 1.2 billion members - with the 450-million-strong WhatsApp, which will be operated independently with its own board.

It fits with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's focus on being at the centre of lifestyles in which billions of people around the world share whatever they wish over the internet using smartphones or tablets.

"Facebook works harder than any other social site to keep people coming back," said Forrester analyst Nate Elliott.

"In the past year, they've focused much of that effort on mobile - introducing Home and Paper, and upgrading both their Facebook and Messenger apps - and this is another step toward keeping people engaged no matter where they are."

Independent

Facebook promised that WhatsApp would remain independent and said it served a real-time communication need, while Messenger was used more in the style of e-mail between members of the social network.

WhatsApp is ideally suited to young people who increasingly prefer rapid-fire smartphone messaging to making calls or churning out e-mail. Facebook has been eager to keep the devotion of young users who set trends and carry tech habits into the future.

It is Facebook's biggest acquisition and comes less than two years after the California-based company raised $16bn in the richest tech sector public stock offering.

Zuckerberg said that WhatsApp - a cross-platform mobile app that allows users to exchange messages without having to pay telecom charges - was worth the steep price because its blistering growth around the globe has it on a clear path to hit a billion users and beyond.

"Services with a billion people using them are all incredibly valuable," Zuckerberg said while discussing the purchase price during a conference call with analysts.

The deal came from a chat Zuckerberg had with WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, whom he described as a "valuable thought partner" and friend of many years.

"Last Sunday evening, about 11 days ago, I proposed if we joined together that would help us really connect the rest of the world," Zuckerberg said.

"He thought about it over the course of the week, came back and said he was interested."

Revenue

Silicon Valley-based WhatsApp started the year with 50 employees, most of them engineers, and the start-up said that all of its stakeholders have approved the take-over.

The purchase includes $12bn in Facebook shares and $4bn in cash. It calls for an additional $3bn in restricted stock units to be granted to WhatsApp founders and employees that will vest over four years.

"WhatsApp's extremely high user engagement and rapid growth are driven by the simple, powerful and instantaneous messaging capabilities we provide," said Koum, who joins Facebook's board under the deal.

The tie-up gives WhatsApp "the flexibility to grow and expand", he added.

Zuckerberg and Koum, who both took part in the conference call, did not discuss details about WhatsApp revenue, saying the focus for the foreseeable future would be on growth, not making money.

WhatsApp software is available for free, but after a year, users are asked to pay annual subscriptions of 99c each.

The acquisition represents likely the biggest-ever price for a tech start-up, trumping the $8.5bn paid for Skype - which allows users to make voice and video calls over the internet - by Microsoft in 2011.

"The size of this deal is really massive and it will get people talking about a bubble," said Greg Sterling of Opus Research.

Gamble

Sterling said the deal is a risk for Facebook because "in social media, you have a flavour of the month, and next year we might have another app with extremely rapid growth".

"I think [the high price tag] comes from the frustration of not being able to buy Snapchat, and then there is the youth factor," Sterling added.

It remained unclear how Facebook planned to eventually make money from WhatsApp.

Roger Kay at Endpoint Technologies said WhatsApp has become one of the most popular mobile applications worldwide "because it allows you to message anybody anywhere for free".

"It's not obvious how they can get $12bn out of this but it's been clear for a while that WhatsApp is very interesting. It reminds me a little bit of Skype," Kay said.

Facebook has added a feature that lets people send cupcakes, coffee, stuffed animals or other gifts to friends at the social network. (Paul Sakuma, AP)

Google: Don't be Glassholes

San Francisco - Google on Tuesday gave early adopters of its internet-connected eyewear a bit of advice: Don't be "Glassholes".

It was the final suggestion in a recommended code of conduct posted online for software developers and others taking part in an Explorer programme providing early access to Google Glass.

The California-based internet titan appeared intent on avoiding the kinds of caustic run-ins that have seen some Glass wearers tossed from eateries, pubs or other establishments due to concerns over camera capabilities built into devices.

Don't be "creepy or rude (aka, a "Glasshole")", Google said in a guide posted online for Explorer programme members.

"Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don't get snappy."

Information overload

Google suggest Glass wearers be polite and offer demonstrations to possibly win over the wary. Glass fans were advised it is proper to follow the same rules set down for smartphone use in businesses.

"If you're asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well," Google said.

"Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers."

In the wake of one early adopter claiming Glass gave him headaches, Google told users not to "Glass-out" by starring into the inset prism screen for long periods at a time.

Glass was designed to deliver helpful bursts of information conveniently to let wearers get back to doing things in the real world, according to the technology firm.

"If you find yourself staring off into the prism for long periods of time you're probably looking pretty weird to the people around you," Google said.

"So don't read War and Peace on Glass. Things like that are better done on bigger screens."

Google also advised against wearing Glass while playing impact sports; or being foolish enough to think the eyewear won't draw attention.

The "do" list included venturing about, using voice commands, asking permission to take pictures, and employing screen locks to prevent use if Glass is lost or stolen.

Google in January unveiled a partnership with US vision insurer VSP to make prescription Glass and to reimburse some of the costs under health benefits.

That does not include the $1 500 price for Google Glass, which is in a test phase with a small number of "explorers" ahead of a wider release sometime this year.

Glass connects to the internet using Wi-Fi hot spots or, more typically, by being wirelessly tethered to mobile phones. Pictures or video may be shared through the Google Plus social network.

During the testing phase, developers are creating apps for the eyewear, which can range from getting weather reports to sharing videos to playing games.

(Jeff Chiu, AP)

Sudan sex video man gets 40 lashes

Khartoum - A Sudanese man whose video of others having sex with a pregnant Ethiopian teenager created a rare case of internet controversy in the conservative nation was sentenced to 40 lashes on Thursday, a lawyer said.
The woman, who activists say was gang-raped, received a one-month jail term for "indecent activity", said one of her lawyers, Samia al-Hashmi.
"But the sentence was suspended because she is pregnant," Hashmi told AFP.
The woman was also fined $625.
Hashmi said three men who admitted to having sex with the woman were sentenced to 100 lashes while another man who filmed the acts received the 40-lash penalty for distributing indecent material.
"He was also fined 10 000 pounds and if he doesn't pay he will be jailed for six months," the lawyer said, adding two other men were acquitted after the trial in Khartoum.
The video published on social media showed sex acts and some of the men laughing.
Despite the popularity of mobile messaging service WhatsApp in Sudan, this was a rare case of such a crime being publicly flaunted in the conservative nation, where women risk flogging for leaving their hair uncovered under morality laws which took effect after the 1989 Islamist-backed coup by President Omar al-Bashir.
The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA Network), a regional association of women's groups, said the 18-year-old pregnant woman was lured to an empty property and attacked while house-hunting last year.
Arrests were made after publication of the video in January, SIHA Network said on its website.
Hala Elkarib, the group's regional director, said the verdict reflects the substantial challenges victims of sexual violence face in pursuing justice.
"It will also serve to prevent future victims from speaking out and seeking assistance and entrenches a culture of impunity for perpetrators," Elkarib said.

Displaced South Sudanese citizens wait at a Sudanese border checkpoint in Joda, where Sudan's White Nile state meets the South's Upper Nile, after fleeing battles between rebel and government forces. (Ashraf Shazly, AFP)

Shops can track your phone

Washington - Should shoppers turn off their smartphones when they hit the mall? Or does having them on lead to better sales or shorter lines at the cash register?
US retailers are using mobile-based technology to track shoppers' movements at some malls and stores. The companies collecting the information say it's anonymous, can't be traced to a specific person and no one should worry about invasion of privacy.
But consumer advocates aren't convinced. It's spying, they say, and shoppers should be informed their phones are being observed and then be able to choose whether to allow it.
The Federal Trade Commission held a workshop on Wednesday on the issue, part of a series of privacy seminars looking at emerging technologies and the impact on consumers. FTC attorney Amanda Koulousias says the commission wants to better understand how companies are using phone-location technology, how robust privacy controls are and whether shoppers are notified in advance.
Here's how the technology works:
Your smartphone has a unique identifier code - a MAC address - for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It's a 12-character string of letters and numbers. Think of it like a personal identification number, but this address is not linked to personal information, like your name, email address or phone number. The numbers and letters link only to a specific phone.
When your smartphone is turned on, it sends out signals with that MAC address (for media access control) as it searches for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Those signals can also be captured by sensors in stores that could tell a department store how often shoppers visit, how long they stay, whether they spend more time in the shoe department, children's clothing section or sporting goods, or whether they stop for the window display, take a pass and decide to move on.
Companies that provide "mobile location analytics" to retailers, grocery stores, airports, and others say they capture the MAC addresses of shoppers' phones but then scramble them into different sets of numbers and letters to conceal the original addresses - a process called hashing. This is how they make the data they collect anonymous, they say.
The companies then analyse all the information those hashed numbers provide as shoppers move from store to store in a mall, or department to department in a store. Mall managers could learn which stores are popular and which ones aren't. A retailer could learn how long the lines are at a certain cash register, how long people have to wait - or whether more people visit on "sale" days at a store.
"We're in the business of helping brick and mortar retailers compete" with online retailers, said Jim Riesenbach, CEO of California-based iInside, a mobile location analytics company. "The retailers want to do the right thing because they know that if they violate the trust of consumers, there will be a backlash."
Not completely secure
Privacy advocates, though, argue that the scrambled or "hashed" MAC addresses aren't completely secure. They can be cracked, says Seth Schoen, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
And that could reveal data that people may not want to share.
"There might be some place that you go that you wouldn't want people to know about," said Schoen. While not necessarily worried about foot traffic at a mall, Schoen raised concerns about down-the-road scenarios, like apps that could track where a person goes, whom that person is with - possibly the kind of information a divorce lawyer or law enforcement might seek.
The retail tracking is a relatively new technology.
Nordstrom tried a small pilot test in 17 of its more than 250 stores in September 2012. The company posted signs at doors telling shoppers they could opt out by turning off their Wi-Fi. Nordstrom ended the trial in May 2013 after some customers complained, saying they felt uncomfortable, spokesperson Brooke White said.
An AP-GfK poll in January found half of Americans were extremely or very concerned about the ability of retailers to keep their personal information secure.
Older Americans were far more concerned about the safety of that information than younger ones - 59% of those age 50 or over said they were extremely or very concerned about it, compared with 46% age 30 to 49 and 32% of people under age 30.
Some of the major players in the field of mobile location analytics - iInside, Euclid, Mexia Interactive and others - have agreed to a "code of conduct" advanced by a Washington-based think tank, the Future of Privacy Forum. It calls for "hashing" MAC addresses, notification signs in stores for consumers and an opt-out website for people to enter their phones' MAC addresses to prevent companies from tracking them.
The opt-out website can be found at www.smartstoreprivacy.org.

The Nokia Asha range offers a cheaper alternative for consumers to adopt smartphones. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

EME finally lets Skales go

Lagos – Banky W’s Empire Mates Entertainment (EME) say that they will not renew the contract of rapper Skales, according to Daily Post.

Skales, whose contract expired a few weeks ago, will not get a renewal because according to EME investing in the musician was no longer profitable.

The rumours that the rapper would possibly be dumped have been around for a while. Wizkid and Skales were signed to  EME in  2010.

EME have also deleted Skales’ record label social media accounts.

Read more at Daily Post

Gbenga Akinnagbe to feature in Nollywood thriller

Lagos – Nigerian born Hollywood actor, Gbenga Akinnagbe, will feature in a soon to be released Nollywood thriller titled Render unto Caesar, reports 360nobs.com.

The movie's first theatrical trailer has been released and also stars Omoni Oboli, Wale Ojo and Bimbo Manuel.

The movie, which was directed by Desmond Ovbiagele, is about two friends who join a special programmer in the Nigerian police force, after returning from abroad.

The special programmer's task is to find a notorious criminal. An official release date for the movie has been announced.

Read more at 360nobs.com

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Not a word from Mavin records on Tiwa's arrest

Lagos – After promising to make a statement concerning Tiwa Savage’s arrest on Saturday by law enforcement agents, Mavin records' management have remained mum on the matter, reports Information Nigeria.

The Mavin Records artiste, who is also a brand ambassador for Forte Oil, Pepsi and MTN, allegedly violated traffic rules before getting into an altercation with the police officer who tried to stop her.

The Group Publicist of Mavin Records, Terfa Tilley-Gyado, who had promised to issue a statement, is yet to say anything publicly on the matter.

Read more Information Nigeria

Police: We arrested Tiwa Savage

Lagos - A policeman attached to the Victoria Island Police division  has confirmed that Tiwa Savage was arrested for running a red light, and refusing to obey law enforcement agents who stopped her, reports Nigerian Entertainment Today.(NET)

The policeman also confirmed that she apologised after the policemen took her to the station.

Savage’s manager, Tunji ‘Tee-Billz‘ Balogun, denied the report. He said the story was a 'big joke' because Tiwa Savage had five shows that weekend.

Read more at NET

Sony PS4 blasts through sales target

San Francisco - Sony has sold more than 5.3 million Playstation 4 video game consoles since launching the device late last year, the company said on Tuesday.

The sales figure surpassed Sony's first year sales target of 5 million in less than four months.

"I am thrilled that so many customers around the globe have continued to select PS4 as the best place to play throughout and beyond the holiday season," Sony CEO Andrew House said in a statement.

Launched in the US in November, the console was snapped up by more than one million customers in its first week on the market. The device is set to go on sale in Japan this weekend.
(<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com'>Shutterstock</a>)

Porsche 911 GT3 on hold after fires

Berlin - Porsche has stopped deliveries of the most expensive version of its overhauled 911 sports car after two of them caught fire, the German car maker said.
Engineers at Porsche's Stuttgart-based headquarters are examining the remains of the gutted vehicles used in Switzerland and Italy to determine the cause of the fires, a spokesperson said on Tuesday, confirming a report on German newswire dpa.
The Volkswagen-owned car maker expects to conclude the investigation this week, the spokesperson said, adding that Porsche had this year delivered 322 of the GT3 models, which start at €137 000.
Porsche expects to hit a target of selling more than 200 000 sports cars and SUVs in 2015, three years earlier than first scheduled, Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller said last week.

Porsche 911 GT3

Mariah Carey's daughter will feature on her new album

Los Angeles - Mariah Carey's daughter will appear on her new album.

The You're Mine (Eternal) singer - who has two-year-old twins Moroccan and Monroe with husband Nick Cannon - has been recording her little girl "ad libbing" after she began mimicking the lyrics from one of her new songs, and says the clips will feature on her forthcoming LP.

She said: "It's a song that I wrote with Bryan-Michael Cox and Jermaine Dupri. There's a part that Jermaine says on the song that [the kids] loved, and Monroe started to say it.

"I kept having to get my iPhone and record her. So I have all these different takes of her saying things, singing things. Then I'd be like, 'This is your new ad lib - learn it!' I have to make it fun for her."

The Hero hitmaker insists both of her children are already showing signs of musical talent.

She told People: "Well, they started singing and talking simultaneously. It's hard to explain. That sounds like a lie, but it's true. They're both so musical."

And Mariah claims she is a "tough" mother who won't let her kids watch non-educational programming - unless she is relaxing and watching TV with them.

She said: "Their favourite thing is, 'Lie down, Mommy.' Meaning, 'Lay with me and watch a movie.' Because otherwise they have to watch Your Baby Can Read or something educational. I'm a tough task-master like that."

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Sound-based login startup joins tech chorus

San Francisco - An Israel-based startup specialising in using sounds instead of passwords for logging in said on Monday it has been bought by Google.
SlickLogin did not disclose financial terms of the deal, and Google did not respond to an AFP request for comment about the acquisition.
"We started SlickLogin because security measures had become overly complicated and annoying," the startup's three-member team said in a post on their website.
"Our friends thought we were insane, but we knew we could do better."
The SlickLogin trio in Tel Aviv said they are joining the Google team with the mission of making the internet safer for people while keeping the log-in process easy.
The founders of the company are billed as products of the cyber security unit of the Israel Defence Forces.
SlickLogin is barely two months old and has yet to field a commercial product but is reported to be developing a way to protect online accounts with a technique akin to sonic handshakes.
The technology involves sending barely audible sounds through computer speakers and then having the users' smartphones recognise the unique tones and respond in kind. It also reportedly factors in the location of smartphones.
"Just place your phone next to your laptop\tablet and you can login," SlickLogin said.
SlickLogin technology could replace passwords in some cases but is more likely to be looked at for use as an added layer of security in what is referred to as "two-factor authentication" to thwart cyber criminals.

(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Skype-type money swaps bad news for banks?

Tallinn - Irked by high bank fees on international money transfers, two Estonian IT whizzes who helped engineer Skype and Paypal have hatched Transferwise, a global internet platform co-ordinating currency swaps between individuals.
"Hey, hidden fees. Your secret's out," taunts the site founded by Taavet Hinrikus, 32, and partner Kristo Kaarmann, 33.
Transferwise has been giving banks a run for their money since its 2011 launch, even attracting applause from tycoon Richard Branson, who sings its praises as a low cost business tool for start-ups.
"They are dramatically lowering the cost of transferring money overseas, by effectively matching people and companies in different countries who want the opposite currency," the Virgin billionaire said in a recent blog post.
The marriage of IT ingenuity and financial savvy also garnered a prestigious 2013 World Summit Award (WSA), a United Nations-backed prize for outstanding web-based business innovations.
Transferwise offers international money transfers for a fee of just one British pound (1.2 euros, $1.6) for all transfers under 200 and 0.5% for everything above - a tenth of what banks typically charge.
At that price, business is booming with the company processing around 1 million per day.
While European rules specify that euro to euro transfers must be free of charge, banks fees on international money transfers between currencies range between three and six percent with exchange rates that routinely favour banks.
The new platform boasts customers from across Europe and is most popular in Britain, France and Spain, mostly among working or retired expats plus small and medium-sized businesses looking to cut operating costs.
It's also eyeing expansion in Asia, Africa and the US, offering services for the Indian rupee, South African rand as well as US, Australian, Hong Kong and Singapore dollars.
Co-founder Hinrikus was Skype's director of strategy until 2008, where he joined as the first employee. Kaarmann worked as a consultant for banks with Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers before setting up TransferWise.
The idea took shape when Hinrikus found himself living in London and spending in pounds, but earning euros at his job with Skype at its headquarters in his native Estonia.
Kaarmann, meanwhile was earning pounds in London, but paying a mortgage for his home in the Estonian capital Tallinn in euros.
"We found that we had the opposite currency requirements, so we started to exchange it among ourselves at the actual mid-market rate - that's the exchange rate you see in the papers, not the inflated rate you'll be offered by your bank," Hinrikus told AFP.
"Soon we realised we had saved a fortune by not moving the money across borders and that perhaps it could be a big business idea. A few years later TransferWise was born," he added.
A few algorithms later, they had come up with the programming to connect people with complementary currency needs.
Hinrikus explains that a customer in Britain who wants to send money home to Estonia can put their pounds on a TransferWise account.
The company then spots a customer in Estonia who wants to send an equivalent amount of money to the UK.
Rather than actually sending the money across borders, TransferWise then simply pays it out to the desired recipient in each country, for the minimal fee.
While concerns have been raised over the potential abuse of the system to launder money, TransferWise spokesperson Huggins points out the service is certified by Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
"This means that the business is subject to the same rules as commercial banks in the UK," she explained.
The half-dozen TransferWise investors read like a who's who of IT venture capitalists.
PayPal founder and Facebook's first financier Peter Thiel is among them via his Valar Ventures company as is Xavier Niel, the founder of French communications provider Free.

(Picture: <a href=\\http://www.shutterstock.com\\>Shutterstock</a>)

China plans record longest underwater tunnel

Beijing - China plans to build the world's longest underwater tunnel, an expert involved in the project said Friday, a $36bn shortcut between two northern port cities in an earthquake-prone region.

The scheme will see cars loaded onto railway carriages before travelling at 220km/h along the 123km tunnel connecting Dalian in Liaoning province and Yantai in Shandong province.

"The underwater tunnel is expected to be completed within the period of the 13th five-year plan [2016 to 2020]," said Wang Mengshu, a tunnel and railway expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

"The cost will be around 220 billion yuan and it will be the world's longest underwater tunnel," added Wang, who has worked on the plan since 2012.

A blueprint for the mammoth project is expected to be submitted to the all-powerful State Council in April, a report in the China Daily said on Friday.

Travel time

Wang told the newspaper that journey time would be cut to 40 minutes after completion of the tunnel, which follows the coastline to the west of Yantai, before veering north across the Bohai Sea.

The tunnel would surpass the combined length of the world's two longest tunnels, Japan's Seikan Tunnel linking Honshu and Hokkaido and the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France.

It would drastically cut the current travel time between the two cities, which are currently separated by a 1 400km drive or about eight hours by ferry.

Three tunnels in total will be built at least 30m below the sea bed, two about 10m in diameter, and a third between them for maintenance and emergency vehicles, the China Daily added.

Officials involved with the project have identified safety as a "top concern", the newspaper said.

The tunnel runs across two earthquake fault lines, and in 1976 the industrial city of Tangshan in Hebei province - between Shandong and Liaoning - was levelled by an earthquake with a magnitude of at least 7.5, although figures vary.

Beijing puts the official death toll at 242 000, while some outside estimates are as high as 655 000, the US Geological Survey says on its website.

China's transport infrastructure has developed rapidly in recent years, particularly its high-speed rail network, which was only established in 2007 but has fast become the world's largest.

But while it is a symbol of China's emergence as the world's second largest economy, it has also been plagued by graft and safety scandals, such as a collision in July 2011 in the eastern province of Zhejiang that killed 40 people.

The accident caused a torrent of public criticism of the government amid accusations that authorities compromised safety in their rush to expand the network.

Tunnel. (Sebastien Bozon, AFP, file)

'Smart' dog collar to be sold in Japan

Tokyo - A high-tech collar attachment that will allow pet owners to monitor their dogs at a distance, checking how much they sleep and how many calories they are burning, was unveiled on Thursday in Japan.

NTT Docomo, the country's largest mobile phone operator, said the new gadget would give smartphone users peace of mind about the animal's health and whereabouts at all times.

The "Petfit" tag, complete with a satellite positioning system, sends information to a designated mobile phone on whether a dog is sleeping, walking or running.

It also monitors how many steps a hound has taken, what the ambient temperature is and whether or not he's getting enough shut-eye.

"The number of dog owners [in Japan] is estimated at 11 million and it is regarded as a sizable market," a company spokesperson said.

"In addition, dogs' presence is quite important to their families," the representative added. "This is part of our proposal for a smart life with mobile phones."

The Petfit goes on sale in March priced at ¥25 900 ($253), including data transmission fees for the first year.

(File)

What Facebook knows about love, in numbers

New York - With 1.23 billion users in all the flavours and up-and-down stages of romantic relationships, Facebook knows a thing or two about love.
For example, two people who are about to enter a relationship interact more and more on Facebook in the weeks leading up to making their coupled status official - up until 12 days before the start of the relationship, when they share an average of 1.67 posts per day.
Then, their Facebook interactions start to decline - presumably because they are spending more time together offline. But while they interact less, couples are more likely to express positive emotions toward their each other once they are in a relationship, researchers on Facebook's data science team found.
Touching on everything from religion to age differences, Facebook has been disclosing such light-hearted findings in a series of blog posts this week, with one coming up later on Friday and another, on breakups, Saturday. Friday, of course, is Valentine's Day.
Facebook data scientist Mike Develin, whose background is in mathematics, notes that the relationship stuff is sort a side project for his team, the findings geared more toward academic papers than Facebook's day-to-day business. His "day job" is Facebook's search function - how people use it, what they are searching for that isn't available and how to make it more useful.
But the patterns Facebook's researchers can detect help illustrate just how useful the site's vast trove of data can be in mapping human interactions and proving or disproving assumptions about relationships. Can horoscopes predict lasting love? Forget about it.
"We have such a wide-ranging set of data, including on places there may not be data on otherwise," Develin said, adding that because Facebook knows a lot about people's authentic identity, there are "almost no boundaries" to the kinds of questions the researchers can explore - about the structure of society, culture and how people interact.
Someday, researchers studying Facebook data may be able to predict whether a couple will break up, learn whether people are happy together or see what makes relationships last. Of course, the data has its limits - not everyone is on Facebook and not every Facebook user shares everything on the site.
Sweet
Still, people share quite a bit. When looking at breakups through the lens of changed relationship statuses (see: "Joe Doe is single"), the researchers found couples who split up and got back together - and dutifully documented it on Facebook - 10 or 15 times a year.
The maximum, Develin, recalls, was a couple who went in and out of a relationship 27 times in one year. While one may assume that a couple wouldn't want to broadcast so much relationship drama to the world, people actually "very faithfully update Facebook at each twist and turn," he says.
Facebook's researchers use aggregated, anonymised data from hundreds of millions of users on the site. This means that while they see information such as age, location, gender, a person's relationship status, for example, such data is not tied back to a specific person.
It was in a study of 18 million anonymised Facebook posts exchanged by 462 000 Facebook couples that researchers delved into how "sweet" couples are to one another on the social networking site.
"For each timeline interaction, we counted the proportion of words expressing positive emotions (like 'love,' 'nice,' 'happy," etc.) minus the proportion of words expressing negative ones (like 'hate,' 'hurt,' 'bad,' etc.)," writes Facebook data scientist Carlos Diuk in Friday's blog post. The data is plotted on a graph, which shows a visible, general increase in the proportion of warm fuzzy feelings right at the start of a relationship.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP)

100 people commit their live bodies to science

Chicago - One hundred people are about to share their live bodies for science as part of an unprecedented new study that will examine how to improve personal health, researchers said on Friday.
The Hundred Person Wellness Project, which begins next month, will require round-the-clock monitoring of its subjects, who are presumed healthy at the time of enrolment.
Scientists will start by sequencing the entire genome of each participant. Then, for the next 25 years, they will take regular measurements of sleep patterns, heart rate, gut bacteria, proteins that track organ health, blood samples, immune cell activity and more.
"What is unique about humans is their individuality," said Leroy Hood at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.
The idea is to "actually follow the transition of the heart, brain and liver from wellness to disease," said Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, Washington.
The focus of the nine-month pilot program - which aims to expand to 100 000 people within the next four years and continue monitoring for up to three decades - is on ways to improve individual wellness based on each person's unique make-up.
Hood said scientists will be on the hunt for "actionable opportunities for each individual", such as how they could change their nutrition to improve their health or avoid certain drugs that might be dangerous given their genetic make-up.
Hood's institute has budgeted about $10 000 per participant and is paying for the research through private donations, according to a report in Nature magazine this week that described the project as "unusually thorough".
It has also defied many of the conventions of clinical trials by doing away with any control group against which to compare results, and by planning to intervene on a personal basis with subjects as the study is ongoing.
You would want to know...As an example of how such intervention might work, Hoods mentioned a friend who suddenly realized he had severe osteoporosis at the age of 35.
The friend had his DNA analysed and discovered he had a defect in a major calcium transporter. Soon after, he began taking calcium supplements and is now in good health five years later.
"If you had that condition, you would want to know about it before you got osteoporosis," said Hood.
About 70 of the first 100 people for the project have already been chosen from a pool of "local people, friends and things like that", said Hood.
Their ages range from 21 to 71, and most are between 40 and 60 years old.
But more people from all walks of life are needed for the next phase of the study as it grows.
Diversity is an "incredibly important part of this", Hood said.
The data will be anonymised and made available to qualified investigators so that they can determine wellness metrics for the first time.
Another key activity will be mining for wellness-to-disease transitions and looking for very early changes that could signal approaching illness.
In an era where personal monitoring of health via smart pedometers is already booming, Hood predicted that the data his project uncovers will be a boon to commercial investors.
"It is going to be a Silicon Valley-like opportunity," he said.

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