Facebook Place Tips will try to put useful info about your location right into the News Feed

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Facebook is in the middle of an ongoing battle to make sure it always surfaces useful, relevant content in your news feed — which is what makes a new feature the company is piloting a bit of a risk. As of today, Facebook users in New York City will be able to test out a new feature called Place Tips. Assuming you have location services enabled, the Facebook app will try to guess when you’re in a popular or interesting location and surface relevant tips, photos, and posts from the place in question.

“News Feed today is a pretty good tool at connecting you to friends and news,” says product manager Mike LeBeau, “but if we’re Facebook and our job is to connect the world, what else do we want to connect you to?” The answer to that question…

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AP’s ‘robot journalists’ are writing their own stories now

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Minutes after Apple released its record-breaking quarterly earnings this week, the Associated Press published (by way of CNBCYahoo, and others) “Apple tops Street 1Q forecasts.” It’s a story without a byline, or rather, without a human byline — a financial story written and published by an automated system well-versed in the AP Style Guide. The AP implemented the system six months ago and now publishes 3,000 such stories every quarter — and that number is poised to grow.

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The US has laws against genetic discrimination, but people still fear it

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Genetic discrimination hasn’t yet become a problem in the US. Since the Genetic Information Nondiscrmination Act (GINA) was signed into law in 2008, very few GINA-related charges have been made. That doesn’t mean that Americans aren’t worried that this sort of discrimination might arise in their own lives, however, according to a perspective piece published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Millionaires in China love gifting Apple products

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Millionaires in China overwhelmingly look to Apple when they want to give someone a nice gift, according to a new survey from Hurun Report. In a poll of 376 millionaires in Mainland China — people with a wealth above US$1.6 million — around one in five said that Apple was the best brand for a gift for both men and women, taking the top spot away from last year’s number one, Hermès. The results find that Apple is followed by much more traditional luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, and Dior. Samsung has a presence on the list, too, but it’s in 10th for men and 9th for women.

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Internal email: We need to change our official photos immediately

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Staff:

It’s come to my attention that official staff photos haven’t been taken since the founding of The Verge dot com. I understand how something like staff photos can be bumped further and further down our corporate to do list. We’re a growing company, and our time is often better served crashing drones and using electric skateboards in nefarious ways. That said, I do believe the moment has come again for staff photos to be taken — and taken seriously. Fortunately, I have found a model from which we can base these photos.

You may have seen this official photograph of astronaut and dog lover Leland D. Melvin. An inspirational figure for us all, Leland spent much of his career with NASA traveling across the country, teaching citizens…

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Watch the video for Kanye West and Paul McCartney’s single ‘Only One’

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The surprising and incredible collaboration between Kanye West and Paul McCartney has added another member: filmmaker Spike Jonze. West just released a music video, directed by Jonze, for the song “Only One,” which he and McCartney released at the beginning of the month. Basically, the video is crazy adorable because it’s just West playing with his daughter, North, who definitely has no idea what’s going on. There’s nothing fancy about the video, but that’s also why it works: like the song, it’s a sincere look at the connection between parent and child. The video can’t be embedded, but you can watch it over at West’s site.

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Steam users have earned more than $50 million selling in-game hats and maps

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Since Valve launched its community content marketplace Steam Workshop in 2011, creators have earned more than $57 million. According to the company, that money was made by more than 1,500 creators spread out across 75 countries.

That makes for an average of about $38,000 per user, though of course we have no idea how that money is actually spread out — chances are that, much like on YouTube, there are a few creators who have made a lot, and a whole bunch who have earned very little. You probably shouldn’t quit your job to make Team Fortress hats, but it’s still a nice chunk of change.

“We expected that it would grow, but not that it would grow this much.”

Steam Workshop is essentially a market where you can buy user-made items for…

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Fitness app RunKeeper integrates Spotify to stream music for your workouts

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Spotify is continuing its push for ubiquity. A day after Sony confirmed it had killed its Music Unlimited service and inked a deal with the Swedish company to bring the music streaming service to PlayStation and Xperia smartphones, RunKeeper has announced Spotify integration for the iOS version of its fitness app.

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The best Gmail app for the iPhone is now made by Microsoft

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Gmail is the world’s most popular email service, and the iPhone, as if this week didn’t make it abundantly clear, is the world’s most popular smartphone. The two have been around for years and years, however the experience of using them together has never been particularly good. Hell, let’s be honest, if you’re relying on Google’s own email apps on the iPhone, your experience is doubleplusungood. But there are plenty of alternatives in Apple’s App Store, and it just so happens that the best among them now bears the name of Microsoft Outlook.

I come from the land of Android, where Gmail thrives as a beautifully integrated service that meets all my emailing needs. Seduced by the iPhone’s camera, I recently switched over to iOS and,…

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Imgur’s new tool makes the most beautiful GIFs on the web

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Imgur has been on a quest to upgrade the GIF, and part of that means making GIFs look a whole lot nicer. It’s starting to make that happen today with the release of Video to GIF, a simple tool that lets you quickly select a clip from a streaming video — like those on YouTube — and then turn it into a GIF. Except, there’s one big catch: most of the time, Video to GIF won’t actually make you a .gif file. It’ll make you what Imgur calls a “.gifv,” which works much the same way as a true GIF but has some key differences in how it can be played back.

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SoundCloud’s iPad app gets a fresh redesign, loses recording capabilities

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After giving its main iPhone app a big redesign back in June, SoundCloud is back today with a revamped iPad experience. And much like the smaller-sized version, this new SoundCloud is fast, fluid, and focuses on getting you to your playlists and tracks fast. At the bottom you’ll see the same four navigation buttons found on the iPhone app: home, search, a “Collection” section for all the stuff you’ve saved, and a trending page that highlights what’s popular across all of SoundCloud. There’s beautiful album art throughout the app, and SoundCloud now more than ever resembles traditional streaming music services like Spotify.

That’s perhaps appropriate, since this new SoundCloud really is all about listening and the music discovery…

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Nintendo is finally sharing ad revenue with YouTube users

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Nintendo has just launched a beta for what it’s calling its “Creators Program,” an affiliate program for sharing advertising money with YouTube content creators. Essentially, anyone who is part of the program can create YouTube videos featuring footage of Nintendo games and split the advertising money with Nintendo — users will get 60 percent of the revenue on individual videos, but can also register dedicated Nintendo channels to earn 70 percent. (Nintendo notes that “this rate may be changed arbitrarily.”)

This is a strong departure for Nintendo, which in 2013 controversially claimed all ad revenue on YouTube videos that featured copyright images and footage from its games. It was a move that angered multiple YouTube gaming…

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Scientists use lasers to make metals super water-repellent

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A new method for producing super water-repellent surfaces could lead to self-cleaning materials that are much more slippery than Teflon and never corrode. Researchers from the University of Rochester say they can make metals superhydrophobic (highly water-repellent) using powerful lasers to etch micro and nanoscale structures onto its surface. “The material is so strongly water-repellent, the water actually gets bounced off,” said Chunlei Guo, lead author of the study outlining the technique, in a statement. “Then it lands on the surface again, gets bounced off again, and then it will just roll off from the surface.”

Unlike chemical treatments, laser-etching can’t be rubbed off

Superhydrophobic surfaces have previously been created…

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Nickelodeon to launch subscription video service

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Nickelodeon is the latest TV network with plans to roll out an online subscription service. According to Variety, Viacom — the network’s parent company — announced plans for the service this morning, saying that consumers would be able to purchase it without a cable subscription. This makes Nickelodeon the latest traditional network to head online and over the top, following in the lead of HBO and CBS. Nickelodeon seemingly has a big opportunity here, too: both Netflix and Amazon have been aggressively building up libraries of kids’ shows, suggesting that there’s a real market waiting to be won over.

Nickelodeon’s service will be focused on serving mobile devices, according to Variety. While it’s unclear if the service will also allow…

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Analysts say Apple has beaten Samsung to become world’s largest smartphone vendor

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After recording the biggest quarterly profit by any company ever, Apple might have earned itself another accolade: world’s largest smartphone vendor. It’s clear that the iPhone maker had a bumper quarter, reporting record sales of 74.5 million smartphones. However, Samsung is only saying that it sold 95 million total handsets, of which, it says, somewhere between 71 million and 75 million (the “high 70 percent“) were smartphones.

If Samsung sold more phones it would probably be keen to say so

So has Apple finally beaten Samsung? It’s impossible to say with absolute certainty. Samsung isn’t likely to give up any more information on the topic, and analysts and industry experts are hedging their bets accordingly. Some are marking it as a d…

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Microsoft rebrands Acompli as Outlook for iOS and Android

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Microsoft is bringing a fully featured version of Outlook to iOS and Android today. The launch comes less than two months after Microsoft acquired email app Acompli in early December, and the software maker is turning Acompli into Outlook mobile. Available for free in the App Store or Google Play, the new Outlook apps are identical to Acompli. This is simply a rebrand for now, but that won’t be the case for long. Microsoft is planning to update its new Outlook apps regularly.

“We have been and we’ll continue to update the app weekly,” says Julia White, Microsoft’s general manager of Office. “So in a very short period time you’ll start to see variance from the Acompli app that will not be updated after that point.” While some might have…

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Microsoft Office is out on Android tablets today

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Microsoft’s Android tablet versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint are no longer in preview mode; you’ll be able to download them today. As with the iOS apps launched last year, Office is essentially free to use on Android for most consumers, though certain premium features and business functionality require an Office 365 subscription. The preview program covered more than 3,000 variants of 500 separate Android devices, and native support for Intel processors is coming later in the year.

Microsoft says the iPhone and iPad versions of Office have been downloaded more than 80 million times worldwide. Although the free release on competing platforms represents a major change in strategy, it’s all part of CEO Satya Nadella’s plan to put the…

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Watch the Minecraft episode that Conan O’Brien was forbidden to make

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Conan O’Brien, by his own admission, isn’t a regular player of video games. But with more than 100 million registered players, Mojang’s Minecraft isn’t an average game — it’s a cultural phenomenon. The Lego-esque brick-placing simulator is so pervasive that Conan, a self-professed “clueless gamer,” asked Minecraft makers Mojang if he could animate an entire show in the game’s trademark blocky, pixelated style. The Swedish developers apparently said no to the idea, but that didn’t stop Conan and co-conspirator Andy Richter from being transformed into cubist versions of themselves for a two-minute sketch.

O’Brien and Richter start the segment brandishing axes and flailing wildly in a Minecraft version of the Conan studio, complete with an…

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The Nobel prize-winning inventor of the laser dies at 99

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Charles Townes, the man responsible for inventing the laser, died this week aged 99. A Nobel prize winner and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Townes thought up the idea for the maser, the predecessor to the laser, helping to alter the course of technology, society, and science fiction.

Townes died in Oakland and spent much of his life at Berkeley, but it was on a park bench in Washington DC where he had a revelation that led to the development of the laser. The year was 1951, and the physicist was in the capital to meet with a Navy committee, set up to find ways to enhance communications technology using microwaves. Townes had been hitting his head against the problem without success, when, sat on the bench, a new…

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OneDrive updates make Microsoft’s cloud storage system better for photos

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Microsoft is updating OneDrive, its cloud storage service that competes with rivals such as Dropbox and iCloud, in a bid to make it a better photo management tool. Over the next few weeks, the company says it’s introducing changes that will automatically import photos from external devices, allow users to categorize them in new albums with clear thumbmail images, and use an updated search function to find specific files and photos saved on the service.

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