Automatic Link

This is an incredible invention: Plug Automatic Link into your car’s data port and it shares all kinds of data on your car’s health and your driving habits with an app on your smartphone.

You can find out if your car or phone is supported here (you don’t need to go through with the pre-order).

For more details check out the Automatic Labs site.

[via Steve Splonskowski]

Ubiquitous Facebook

Facebook’s plan to find its next billion users: convince them the internet and Facebook are the same

This is the story of Facebook’s rapidly unfolding plan to take over the world, or at least the world wide web. It’s a tale that’s been hiding in plain sight for years, and it begins with an explanation of how Facebook has reached almost a billion users. It continues with a roadmap for how the seeds of Facebook’s future growth – to two billion and beyond – have already been planted. In both cases, what matters is emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America: the striving, proto-middle class “next billion” whose first impression of the internet is often that it seems to consist entirely of a site called Facebook.

I’ve always thought Facebook would come out with a device (phone or communicator) that only ran Facebook but in fact, Facebook for SIM, Facebook Zero and various Facebook apps are better and more generic gateways to the Facebook community. Had AOL done this type of thing in the old days they might have lived a bit longer.

Through a series of canny partnerships, acquisitions, and roll-outs, Facebook has made its service usable for anyone, whether they’re using the latest iPhone or a five year old gray-market Nokia with a black and white screen. In many cases, users don’t even have to have a data plan.

And the key to Facebook’s strategy is that no matter where users start on the ladder of mobile technology, from the most basic device to the newest smartphone, Facebook becomes better and more fun to use as they upgrade. And this is also why carriers are so eager to partner with Facebook, because the next billion to come onto the internet will do it through a mobile device, on which every megabyte that they use in connecting with their friends can be measured and billed.

This piece is worth reading carefully and while I’m no fan of Facebook, this is a brilliant idea.

[via The Verge]

The Scary Consequences of a Lost Smartphone

The Scary Consequences of a Lost Smartphone

This is a chilling piece, worth reading for anyone who travels with a computer, smartphone or tablet.

I found an iPhone on the Undermountain trail on Bear Mountain two weeks ago. There were numerous hikers on the mountain and the woman who lost it gave her boyfriend’s iPhone # to another hiker in case they ran into someone who found it. She should have posted it as a note on the bulletin board at the bottom of the trail but that’s another story. We luckily ran into the hikers with the phone number and I mentioned that I’d found an iPhone. The iPhone was passcode locked but it had a distinctive ring tone: a dog barking so I could use that to ID a claimant.

We called the phone number and the woman who had lost it turned around and in 15 minutes had driven back to the parking lot where we returned her iPhone to her.

Had she not posted or given her number out I might have posted notice on the bulletin board but frankly, I don’t think that’s my responsibility. I’m not after a stolen iPhone and I would have no doubt sat on the iPhone and posted here and called the Connecticut chapter of Appalachian Mountain Club and reported it. I never asked her if she had “Find my iPhone” activated on her computer or she knew how to use it to pass a note to the finder and erase the iPhone if necessary.

As the Symantec study illustrates, had all of this happened in almost any city in the world I’m not so sure the outcome would have been the same.

iPhone mute switch kerfuffle

Ringing Finally Ended, but There’s No Button to Stop Shame

The unmistakably jarring sound of an iPhone marimba ring interrupted the soft and spiritual final measures of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 at the New York Philharmonic on Tuesday night. The conductor, Alan Gilbert, did something almost unheard-of in a concert hall: He stopped the performance. But the ringing kept on going, prompting increasingly angry shouts in the audience directed at the malefactor.

After words from Mr. Gilbert, and what seemed like weeks, the cellphone owner finally silenced his device. After the audience cheered, the concert resumed. Internet vitriol ensued.

Many people have been commenting on this event for a while now and Marco Arment pulls many of the various issues and sub-issues together here: Designing “Mute”.

No doubt how the mute switch works relative to all sounds is a meaningful design discussion but what interests me is that few if any of these discussions about the event recommend turning the phone off. Turning electronics off not only solves the unexpected alarm/ring problem, it also solves the problem of people silently texting their friends during a concert.

If I spend the money to go to a concert at Avery Fisher Hall the last thing I want is to be sitting next to someone with a lit up smartphone texting his or her friends.

The answer here is to turn off all electronic devices at a concert like this. Not sleep, not mute, but power down. That takes care of the texting problem and users who don’t know that they’ve set up an alarm to go off during a concert.

Gorilla Glass, the smartphone’s unsung hero

Gorilla Glass, the Smartphone’s Unsung Hero

…I still carry my phone around naked all the time, and there’s not a scratch on it. (To be clear: only the phone is naked all the time.)

What I’ve never understood is how that can be. The screens (and, on the iPhone 4, the back as well) are glass, for crying out loud. People carry their phones around in pockets with keys and change. People drop these things, toss them, scrape them. Why on earth don’t they get totally scratched up?

Fascinating piece by David Pogue. Great to hear of an American company (Corning) getting this right.

Group Texting Grows Up

I have to say, my wife, who hates talking on the phone has been texting non-stop since getting my old iPhone. She even pulled me into it and I’ve been chatting for years. It is useful and no doubt less intrusive than a phone call at times.

OnPoint had a show on texting the other day. It’s worth listening to and commenting on: Texting Trends & Human Contact.

Tip: turn sound off on your phone, vibrate on, and then you can more easily ignore incoming stuff and deal with it in your own sweet time.

Technology Leads More Park Visitors Into Trouble

The national parks’ history is full of examples of misguided visitors feeding bears, putting children on buffalos for photos and dipping into geysers despite signs warning of scalding temperatures.

But today, as an ever more wired and interconnected public visits the parks in rising numbers — July was a record month for visitors at Yellowstone — rangers say that technology often figures into such mishaps.

People with cellphones call rangers from mountaintops to request refreshments or a guide; in Jackson Hole, Wyo., one lost hiker even asked for hot chocolate.

I used to subscribe to and read Accidents in North American Mountaineering which in places was just as humorous as this article. Add technology to the mix and you have even more brazen people going into the wilderness thinking cell service is everywhere and that they can call for a ranger for any reason.

This story overlaps with kids (escorted by adults) climbing Mt. Everest or sailing around the world (unescorted).

I have no problem with people going off into the wilderness and doing challenging things; I have serious problems with a small number of those people who are unprepared and assume they can be rescued if they get into trouble. It costs thousands of dollars an hour to fly a helicopter with a rescue team to a remote area to do a rescue and in this country few hikers, climbers, or sailors pay for this. They should, or, if they’re 14 their parents should.

We need insurance companies to offer policies that will pay for expensive rescues and then, in order to climb Grand Teton a group needs to have such a policy and sign a waver saying they will not ask for a rescue if one of them gets a blister. Insurance will help pay for rescues but unfortunately it might also give people a false sense of protection.

We all have to start somewhere and the first time I went camping I took a space blanket and a few candy bars. After one uncomfortable night in Lassen Park we walked out and took the bus home with our tails between our legs. Had cell phones been around then I doubt we’d have used one to call for help.

When I go out on a 7 mile day hike in summer (like two days ago) I carry enough gear to spend the night in the woods if I have to: flashlight/headlamp, extra clothing and a raincoat, extra food and water and a first aid kit. Yes, I do carry an iPhone although coverage is spotty in the places we hike. My candy bars (Clif bars) are better too.