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February 24, 2013

Mozilla Announces Firefox OS and Firefox Smartphones!

Mozilla recently announced that consumers can expect the release of a Firefox phone, complete with Firefox operating system this summer. According to the Mozilla Project's press release, the OS will offer "the world's first Open Web devices," with applications based on HTML5. The proposed OS has so far received a large amount of industry support from companies who are eager for an alternative to a market dominated by only two forces: Android and iPhone.


Some consumers and developers have questioned why Mozilla would try and introduce another OS into a market that has pushed out everything but Android and iPhone. But just because that's how the market is doesn't mean that it's how it should be. A successful introduction by a reputable company could encourage healthy competition among industry leaders, resulting in better pricing and more options for consumers - all good things.

Early consumer trials of Firefox phones have led to an expression of concern over a possible lack of available apps, since there will be relatively few apps developed for a brand new platform. Mozilla's press release reassures consumers that apps are being developed for Firefox OS as we speak. Early Firefox phones have also been criticized as looking too much like iPhones and being slow.

Mozilla promises a better, more intuitive search experience through Firefox OS, and it will be interesting to see if they can work the kinks out!


February 13, 2013

What's New With Apple?

President Obama gave a tip of the hat to Apple in his recent State of the Union address, mentioning that the company will begin producing a line of Mac computers in the U.S., thus bringing some production home from overseas. In other Apple news:


Price Reduction: Apple is reducing prices on its MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The price of the 13-inch version has been dropped from $1699 to $1499. The price of the 13-inch MacBook air has also been dropped, from $1499 to $1399.

Antitrust Litigation: The Justice Department began litigation last year against Apple and 5 major publishers for violating antitrust laws by working together to raise the prices of e-books (and to keep them higher than discounted prices offered by Amazon).
Just a few days ago, Macmillan became the last of the major publishers to settle the lawsuit, sidestepping an admission of guilt, but stating that the potential risks of going to trial had become too many. Apple, as the only remaining defendant in the case, must also weigh the risks of going to trial, which could result in the company having to pay large amounts in damages.

Leading the Japanese Market: The popularity of the iPhone has propelled Apple to the top of the Japanese mobile phone market. This is the first time that local companies have been surpassed in popularity. Currently, Sharp is holding second place and Fujitsu is in third.

New Weather App: One of the newest and best rated Apps available for iPhone is Haze, a weather app that predicts the weather and gives you tips on what weather-related gear to have on hand, all with a minimal interface. The reviews say that it's pretty user-friendly with some practice. It's available for $0.99.


February 10, 2013

Tech Academic: Cell Phone Use in Schools

Increasing numbers of high school-age students own cell phones. Whether or not students should be allowed to carry cell phones in schools is the subject of much debate, with both sides on the issue offering relevant points. It's something that every school must consider when developing rules and initiatives on technology use.


Arguments for allowing cell phones in schools:

Bring your own technology initiative: Some schools are considering allowing kids to use the cell phones or tablets that they already own to do schoolwork, including research. The idea is that the school will then provide the technology to students who don't already possess it. That way, the school doesn't have to pay to furnish every student with a device, just those who don't already bring it with them. This would be implemented to help schools keep up in an increasingly technological world, while staying on a budget.

Prohibition Doesn't WorkYoung people as a demographic are very attached to their cell phones, and consequently are prone to breaking whatever rules are made prohibiting cell phone use. Some may argue that allowing them in school will help alleviate some of the time and energy that teachers and authority figures spend on enforcing disciplinary measures related to cell phone use in school.

The "Keeping Up With Technology" argument: There's also an argument for cell phone use in school stating that technology is an ever-growing snowball that the educators downhill from it can't simply avoid. There used to exist a time when calculators were not allowed in match classes because they were thought to impede the learning process. Similarly, according to this argument, cell phones should be thought of as a learning device of the future - one that will inevitably be used universally at some point.

Arguments against allowing cell phones in schools:

They're distracting: There may not be any feasible way to prevent raging hormones and idle daydreaming from distracting from the learning process, but educators can put a stop to the distraction of cell phone use by enforcing a ban on the devices. If cell phones are allowed in schools, students will be more tempted to text, instagram or check facebook while they're supposed to be paying attention during class.

They encourage cheating: Cell phone technology could make it much easier for students to cheat on tests. It's as easy as snapping a picture of test questions with a cell phone's camera and sending it to peers. Recently, Stuyvesant High School in New York experienced a cheating scandal when a student allegedly used his cell phone to share test answers with over 50 students.

They contribute to social stratification: Allowing cell phones in school could help divide students along the social lines of the "haves" versus the "have-nots." Some parents will not be able to furnish their child with the latest technology, and as a result that child could quickly lapse to the bottom of the social ladder.

Regardless of what side of the debate you fall on, it's an interesting one!

February 03, 2013

Teen Cell Phone Use: Sexting and Troubled Friendships

Mobile phone use has become largely ubiquitous in the U.S., especially among young people. According to Nielsenwire, teens remain the top text message-senders among cell phone users. According to a 2011 Nielsen survey, data usage by teens is growing at a rate surpassing that of users in any other demographic, with teen males leading the data usage surge.


In the busy daily life of the modern family, cell phones are a great way for teens to communicate with parents. They're useful to have around in case of an emergency and for safety purposes. However, there are some concerns associated with cell phone use that both parents and young people should be aware of:

Snap Chat - Innocent fun or not?

With the seemingly boundless internet at their fingertips, teens have ample opportunity to get into trouble. The new and very popular smart phone app Snap Chat has been in the spotlight lately. It's an app that allows the user to snap a picture of him or herself and then send it to another mobile phone. The photo is only visible to the receiver for seconds before it disappears.

It seems that the inevitable consequence of rapidly disappearing photos is easy sexting. Snap Chap appears to have given teens an irresistible tool for sending one another racy photos, believing that said photos will be deleted before they can be dispersed or saved. However, quick-fingered receivers can easily take a screen shot of photos, save them, and have them forever.

Teens should be cautioned that the potentially embarrassing photos that they send through Snap Chat absolutely can be saved and dispersed or used for blackmail or other nefarious purposes.

Relationship Troubles:

A 2011 study out of the University of Kansas by Jeffrey A. Hall and Nancy K Baym explores how constant cell phone contact between friends can result in feelings of technological entrapment and actually be detrimental to relationships.

The study discusses how teens get caught up in micro-coordination with their friends through cell phone use, remaining in perpetual contact with each other through instant text messaging to plan and coordinate with one another. As a result, whenever cell phone use is restricted, teens experience stress.

They also develop high expectations of one another to communicate rapidly, resulting in feelings of pressure to maintain constant communication with their friends and making texting and calling feel obligatory.
Learning how to develop and maintain friendships is a crucial part of adolescence, and cell phones may be contributing to greater strain on teens.

Teens should be made aware of this phenomenon, encouraged to interact with friends face-to-face, and given tools for dealing with relationship stress, particularly because experiencing stress from peer relationships or romantic relationships can lead to symptoms of depression.

Teenagers are susceptible to being caught up in the ever-rising tide of technology, with dangerous consequences. Stay informed and help guide your teenage child in making responsible decisions with his or her mobile phone.