HTC upheaval continues with two more senior resignations

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This time last summer, Fred Liu and Ben Ho were still stepping up to higher ranks within HTC to fill the void left by departing top-level executives. Now, according to a Bloomberg report, they’re emulating their predecessors by also resigning from their roles. Liu had been HTC’s President of Engineering and Operations since replacing Matthew Costello in June 2013 whereas Ben Ho managed the company’s marketing efforts since late 2012. Ho, in particular, has been prominent in communicating HTC’s long-term plans to worried investors and analysts, and his job hasn’t been made easy by a continuous exodus of high-ranking HTC officials.

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Google’s Nest and Samsung partner on ‘new’ home automation standard

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Samsung, Google-owned Nest Labs, and five other companies have partnered to create Thread Group, which will focus on developing a new wireless networking protocol for smart homes. Thread uses both the same frequency and radio chips as Zigbee, a standards-based wireless technology utilized by products like Phillips’ customizable Hue LED light bulbs. It can connect more than 250 devices to a low-power, mesh network equipped with internet and cloud access. The new protocol is intended to address some of the issues present within the competition, including lack of interoperability, high power requirements, and hardware dependencies.

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Google signs deal to put sensors directly on your eye

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Google and Novartis have this morning announced an agreement to collaborate on the development of the smart contact lens that was unveiled by Google X in January. Using non-invasive sensors, the lens promises to analyze tear fluid in the eye to provide constant measurements of a person’s blood glucose levels. Those can then be sent wirelessly to a mobile device and help diabetics manage their disease more easily.

Novartis has now licensed the technology and, through its eye care subsidiary Alcon, will look to develop it into a commercial product. Google co-founder Sergey Brin has said that his company is “very excited to work with Novartis [on using] the latest technology in the miniaturization of electronics to help improve the quality…

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Microsoft prepares for biggest ever job cuts

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Microsoft is reportedly planning its biggest job cuts for five years. Bloomberg reports that the reductions will likely affect marketing, engineering, and the former Nokia employees that make up Microsoft’s new mobile group. The cuts could be the biggest yet, after Microsoft reduced its headcount by 5,800 in 2009, and reductions are also expected to affect divisions that overlap with the Nokia phone business. Some job cuts will also reportedly hit groups like the global Xbox marketing team.

Microsoft currently has 127,104 employees as of June 5th, and previous reports from Gigaom suggest that the software maker might be planning to cut as much as 10 percent of its workforce. It’s not immediately clear when the rumored job cuts will take…

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Four states were responsible for half of US wiretaps last year

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Half of the phone wiretaps set up in the United States in 2013 were authorized in only four states, according to a report released this month that details last year’s intercepted wire, oral, and electronic communications. California accounted for more than a quarter of the total and New York made up 12 percent, while both Florida and Nevada contributed six percent of the 3,576 requests authorized by federal and state government.

The same report shows that while the number of US wiretaps only increased five percent from 2012, the figure has more than doubled since 2003, when the total amount of authorized wiretaps was 1,442. 3,455 of 2013’s authorizations — 97 percent of the total — were targeted at portable devices such as cell phones,…

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Shazam now lets Rdio users play full songs right after tagging them

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Shazam doesn’t want you to leave its app, and has partnered with music streaming service Rdio to make that happen. A new update to Shazam’s iOS app that went out today — and is headed to the Android version — lets you play full versions of songs you’ve identified using the company’s tagging technology. It requires being a Rdio subscriber, and allowing Shazam access to your account. Once you’ve linked the two, you can also add songs to Rdio playlists right from Shazam, listen to full tracks from Shazam’s “explore” and “pulse” sections, and see songs you’ve played in Shazam in your Rdio history. It’s a markedly different approach from the way Shazam’s app used to work, which kicked you out to Rdio or Spotify’s app to listen to a whole…

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The genius behind ‘Scott Pilgrim’ returns with his latest graphic novel

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Scott Pilgrim, with its jerky, dreamy, sword-wielding hero with a love for 8-bit video games, became a cultural touchstone for many comics fans in the last decade who grew up nerdy in the 1980s. It also happened to put author Bryan Lee O’Malley on the map. Between 2004 and 2010, O’Malley put out six volumes of his beloved graphic novel series, earning an Eisner nomination and highly-regarded film adaptation in the process. Now he’s back with his latest graphic novel, Seconds, which hits stores tomorrow. As he tells Wired, while his first great work focused on young adults just figuring things out, Seconds deals with life as one learns to live with getting older and living with their choices. There are still plenty of pop culture, food,…

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The US government wants to create an experimental city for testing wireless tech

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The US government has for years been trying to encourage “spectrum sharing” as a way of getting more and faster wireless connections around the country. The idea is to convince the organizations that own rights to transmit data over specific airwaves — such as the US military and private TV broadcasters — to allow some of their airwaves to be used by other people; say, individuals for Wi-Fi connections. Now the government is explaining in greater detail its plans to create an experimental town somewhere in the US to see just what that spectrum sharing arrangement could look like — and what problems might arise.

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Weird Al releasing a new video every day for eight days, starting today with ‘Happy’ parody

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Weird Al has a new album of parodies coming out tomorrow, but you’ll probably want to look for them on the web rather than over the radio: eight songs off of the album are getting music videos, and they’ll be premiering over eight days. The first video came out this morning and has Al singing “Tacky,” a parody of Pharrell’s unbearably catchy hit “Happy.”

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eBay and fine-art auction house Sotheby’s team up to offer live bidding online

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eBay and the fine-art auction house Sotheby’s are teaming up to offer access to on-location auctions over the web, allowing people across the globe to bid on Sotheby’s listings of antiques, artworks, and collectibles. To host the online auctions, eBay will launch a new page for auctions that tie-in with bidding at Sotheby’s New York headquarters. Other sellers will eventually be able to take advantage of the service, though Sotheby’s will remain its flagship partner. “We are joining with eBay to make our sales more accessible to the broadest possible audience around the world,” Sotheby’s COO Bruno Vinciguerra says in a statement.

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Finland’s largest city wants to replace cars with apps

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Car sharing has grown in popularity in recent years thanks to the internet and smartphones. But now the city government of Helsinki, Finland, wants to take that idea to its logical endpoint: replacing most privately owned cars by 2025 with a comprehensive route-planner app that would also offer access to all of the city’s shared-transportation options, plus weather forecasts. As The Helsinki Times reported earlier this month, the idea is to offer every commuter a series of transportation options tailored directly to them and their circumstances: so if it’s due to start raining, the app would recommend exactly when to swap a bike-share for a cab, for example.

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Techno Viking, deploy: when internet memes meet British spy tools

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Intelligence operatives trawl the internet looking for information that might help incriminate or neutralize potential terrorists. Intelligence operatives like to give their programs names like MYSTIC and SQUEAKY DOLPHIN. None of that makes it any less strange when Glenn Greenwald reveals that British spy agency GCHQ is using programs like “TECHNO VIKING” to game online polls and mine data from LinkedIn. Today, Greenwald posted a leaked list of tools created by the agency’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), granting some small insight into the simultaneously mundane, ominous, and ridiculous world of online surveillance.

The GCHQ, which works in tandem with the NSA, is said to tap fiber optic cables to gather intelligence…

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New art installation turns light beams into 3D shapes floating in mist

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This may just be the future of the laser light show. Seoul-based visual artists Kimchi and Chips recently devised a way to create floating three-dimensional objects using light, smoke, and mirrors. Called Light Barrier, the installation debuted at the New Media Night Festival in Russia’s Nikola-Lenivets Art Park last month. In the display, millions of light beams are projected through smoke and reflected against curved mirrors so they intersect with other light beams, creating brighter points of light for the viewer. The artists have carefully calibrated each light beam’s path in the installation so they together create spheres, diamonds, and other shapes. Take a look.

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United Kingdom plans first spaceport for 2018

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Britain plans to have its first spaceport built and in operation by 2018, allowing companies like Virgin Galactic to begin launching space-tourism flights from right within the country, reports the Guardian. The plans will be formally announced by the British government on Tuesday, at which point it will detail the eight locations that are currently under consideration for where the spaceport will go. According to the Guardian, locations are speculated to include Bristol, Norfolk, the north of Scotland, and the Outer Hebrides.

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Company says it’s created the world’s blackest black with carbon nanotubes

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Black may not be, it turns out, the darkest shade — at least not black as we know it. British tech company Surrey Nanosystems says it’s developed the world’s blackest material: made of carbon nanotubes, it can absorb 99.96 percent of light that hits it. Its developers say that to the human eye, the material — called Vantablack — completely erases any features on a surface, becoming simply a void. “It’s like black, like a hole, like there’s nothing there. It just looks so strange,” chief technical officer Ben Jensen tells The Independent. That’s because the dense coating of carbon nanotubes, rolled sheets of carbon atoms like the one seen above, are used to create a lattice that absorbs virtually all light as it’s refracted around the…

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Google, Netflix, and Facebook ask FCC to intervene in fight over internet ‘congestion’

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The Internet Association, a trade group composed of some of the biggest tech companies in the world, has filed comment with the FCC asking it to intervene in the conflict over payments being demanded by big ISPs. According to a report in The Hill, companies like Comcast and Verizon are charging Netflix and others for direct interconnection to their networks, a move which allows these companies to bypass congestion and avoid service issues like video buffering. The group wrote in its letter that “interconnection should not be used as a choke point to artificially slow traffic or extract unreasonable tolls.”

This is the latest volley in a war of words between big internet companies and the ISPs that carry their data into customers’ homes….

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This is the world’s collective view of the World Cup

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A good portion of sports fans across the globe found themselves sitting in front of a TV yesterday to watch Germany and Argentina duke it out in the World Cup, and artists Teju Cole, Jer Thorp, and Mario Klingemann wanted to make something out of that rare worldwide connection. “Simultaneous spectatorship has been possible for decades,” Cole writes on Twitter, “but global social networks have now made it highly visible.” Cole asked his followers to tweet photos of their television or computer as they watched the game, tagging the photos with their location, the minute on the game clock, and the hashtag “thetimeofthegame.”

The result is the website Time of the Game, a collection of photos from people watching the World Cup across the…

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Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 review: instant photos in the Instagram age

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Of all the forms of photography you’d expect to have been sidelined by the smartphone onslaught, instant film would have to top the list. Sure, the unique (and useless) ritual of shaking your pictures to speed up development has a special place in the hearts of many. But the traditional advantages of instant cameras — ease of use, shareability, and the ability to see your photo straight away — are matched point-for-point by the tiny shooter embedded in your phone. Instagram didn’t base its…

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World Cup Final breaks Facebook and Twitter records

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Both Twitter and Facebook say they’ve hit new usage records thanks to last night’s World Cup Final. Facebook reveals that 88 million people left more than 280 million posts, comments, and likes about the Germany vs. Argentina game, surpassing the previous engagement record for a single sporting event set during Superbowl XLVII (245 million interactions). The most active country during the game was the US, while males aged 18 to 24 were the most engaged. Facebook previously announced that the World Cup as a whole is its most-talked about event ever: the social network reached over a billion interactions just two weeks into the tournament.

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Google Glass pioneer moves to Amazon

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Babak Parviz, the man who founded and led the Google X project that gave rise to Google Glass, has moved to work at Amazon. Revealing the news on his Google+ page, the Iranian-American scientist describes himself as “super excited” but doesn’t disclose any details about what he’ll be developing next. The focus of Parviz’s research so far has been the pursuit of an intelligent contact lens that would both obtain readings about its wearer through sensors and provide information via augmented reality visual overlays. In many ways, Google Glass is the compromise solution on the way to that goal.

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