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Google Acquires Titan Aerospace

What do Google and aerospace have in common? A lot, it turns out, now that the tech giant has officially announced that it’s buying Titan Aerospace in an effort to cover the globe with Internet connectivity, compliments of balloons and drones from the sky.

The Wall Street Journal initially reported the acquisition on Monday, April 14, but it took two days to get a confirmation. Now, the aerospace team has said it will start working with “Project Loon,” a pet Google project, in order to create high-altitude balloons that will provide low-cost Wi-Fi to rural regions.

If you haven’t heard of Titan before, the company designed drones that are solar-powered and fly above sea level. A startup based in New Mexico, Titan says the drones can “fly continuously for years” because of solar-charged batteries located in the wings.

However, the technology hasn’t been proven yet. (What about severe storms?) This isn’t the first time Titan has had tech giants sniffing around: Facebook attempted to acquire the company to get 11,000 Solara 60 drones.

No Facebook friends here

The details of how or why the Facebook acquisition fell through are vague, but what’s known is that Facebook went with a UK aircraft company, Ascenta, instead. Ascenta and Titan use similar technology, so it appears that Facebook is also attempting to build a private global Wi-Fi network.

Mark Zuckerberg wrote about his thoughts on drones in a white paper. In his opinion, they’ll be better than balloons for providing Internet to rural areas.

It looks like Google has arrived at a similar perspective, because Titan is on board to garner data that will help Google Maps as well as a number of systems in far-off places. Google is also on track to acquire a number of robotics companies to help gather airborne data, such as Boston Dynamics, the makers of DARPA’s killer robots.

Staying on top of things

The same way you wouldn’t want to miss out on re-certification for your career, Google isn’t taking any chances in building a veritable robot army. It’s rumored that the search giant might be angling to create a GATAMAM system, or Google all-terrain automated mapper, analyzer, and manipulator, which can instantly get data to support many services and simultaneously connect them around the world.

Google says, “Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world. It’s why we’re so excited to welcome Titan Aerospace to the Google family.”

To the rest of us, though, this may sound more like another step toward world domination by Google.

Lifestyle:

4 Ways Tech Freelancers Can Protect Their Work Rights

Freelance work in the tech industry is becoming a norm for many companies, who look to take independent contractors on board for a number of support and coding roles. However, freshly minted freelancers can find themselves in trouble when a client refuses to pay, or if a client decides to cancel a project when work has already been done. Since freelancers are not traditional employees, they are not subject to the same rights as full-time or part-time employees. Here are four ways to protect yourself against unpredictable client actions.

Use a Contract Every Time

Verbal agreements regarding work terms and payment won’t hold up in small claims court when a client refuses to pay. You’ll need a contract that is legally binding. This document should actually protect the interests of both the freelancer and the client. It entitles the client to a certain scope and quality of work. And it entitles the freelancer to a set amount of pay for a project or hourly wage. Whenever you negotiate freelance work, one of the parties should provide a contract that both the freelancer and the client will sign.

Copyright Clause

Who owns the rights to your work? Is your client paying to use the work with a credit to you, or do they own the full rights to the work? Where are they allowed to use the work? Is the client allowed to make money off work that is a derivative of your project? Will you be allowed to use code elsewhere? These are all important questions that you will need to hash out in advance, because it can significantly impact the parameters and future use of your work.

Portfolio Use Clause

Many of us take on new responsibilities in the hopes that we’ll get to mention it on our resumes and portfolios. However, some companies will contract workers to complete sensitive or confidential projects. If you have signed a non-disclosure report, a client might be able to take legal action against you, if you accidentally reveal confidential information on documents like an online portfolio. If you’d like to display work in your portfolio, make sure this is included within your contract.

Payment Clause

Your payment clause should explicitly define the payment schedule that clients must adhere to. If they do not pay, do not work. Some freelancers request half of the project compensation at the beginning of the project, then half upon completion. Define payment expectations if the client decides to cancel: for example, they should owe you 80% of the cost if you have finished 80% of the project.

Contracts can help you recover funds if you must take a client to small claims court and collect on debts. These documents can help ensure that clients are on their best behavior. Freelancers can protect themselves by using contracts for every project they work on.

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last update: July 23, 2014

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Voluntary Commitment to Smartphone Anti-Theft Tech is On

The CTIA-The Wireless Association just revealed its Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment policy. It states that anyone who signs the commitment is promising to offer a “kill switch” to buyers at no additional cost.

sos_rotating

The “kill switch” was a hotly debated anti-theft tool that’s been stirring up trouble between the CTIA and lawmakers. The CTIA comprises the vast majority of all the wireless network carriers in the country, which means you’ll likely encounter the kill-switch feature should your phone ever be lost or stolen.

According to official statements, the CTIA says that the feature is a rough but “final solution” to stop security threats.

Not too long ago, the CTIA seemed on the fence about installing a kill switch, but the organization has clearly changed its tune. A number of lawmakers and government agencies have long praised the benefits of such a feature, but the CTIA held back until now.

It appears that the association has finally come on board and understands that it’s going to be the best approach, at least for now, to discourage the theft of smartphones and the sensitive information inside them.

Technology is constantly changing and improving, but will this move entail?

Do you solemnly swear …

As the first part of the commitment, developers and manufacturers are mandated to provide the kill switch at no additional cost. The second half is targeted to carriers, who also need to agree not to stop their customers from downloading the feature.

You’ve probably already seen or used similar features such as the Google Android Device Manager, which enables the user to wipe a device virtually clean from a smartphone. But what if it’s the smartphone that needs wiping?

The kill switch offers the option to make the device inoperable simply by freezing the functions (with the exception of emergency calls, which fall under a different law), and the phone can’t be reactivated. Factory resets won’t save it, and only the owner will be able to make any changes.

However, according to the CTIA, this can be reversed via the owner. It will only require “proper credentials.” That’s the real game-changer here, because it potentially saves owners big money on phone replacements.

A volunteer commitment

Keep in mind that this is a voluntary opt-in feature. Most manufacturers and carriers have readily signed on, and are offering the feature to consumers.

As a consumer, you’re not required to use it, though. While it’s currently a downloadable feature, it’s getting a lot of support from lawmakers across the country, so it might eventually become a default feature on every device.

Social:

Gnip is the Latest Twitter Acquisition

twitter

Gnip and Twitter had been playing nicely for a long time, but much like a twin that swallows its sibling in the womb, it was time for Twitter to acquire Gnip.

The analytics firm had been helping Twitter climb into the black. Apparently it did so well that the social media giant developed the means to purchase its partner. Gnip has a proven reputation for utilizing social media feeds, analyzing them, and then making that information financially useful.

There are four companies that have that level of access to Twitter feeds, the others being WordPress, Tumblr, and FourSquare.

Of course, public sites like Facebook can also get access to this information, so what made Gnip a must-have? Twitter’s VP of Business Development and Platform Jana Messerschmidt said, “Gnip has played a crucial role in collecting and digesting our public data and delivering the most essential Tweets to partners.”

Twitter certainly knows what it’s doing in the realm of all things marketing, but even a social media star can use a little help.

Tweeting deeper

Messerschmidt continued, “We believe Gnip has only begun to scratch the surface. Together, we plan to offer more sophisticated data sets and better data enrichments, so that even more developers and businesses big and small around the world can drive innovation using the unique content that’s shared on Twitter.”

For others who are using Gnip, service will remain the same. They’ll still get complete access to Gnip data, but Twitter will help by expanding how much data is gleaned from social media sites.

Until any expansions are made, Twitter gets to sit back and watch the cash roll in from the surplus of tweets of its user base. Chris Moody, CEO of Gnip, says, “We’ll be able to support a broader set of cases across a diverse set of users, including brands, universities, agencies, and developers big and small. Joining Twitter also provides us access to resources and infrastructure to scale to the next level and offer new products and solutions.”

It seems to be a win-win situation for everyone involved, and that includes stockholders.

Bringing home the bacon

When the acquisition was announced, Twitter’s stock shot up by more than ten percent and Wall Street was all a’twitter. That’s great news for investors and stockholders who have been watching Twitter stock steadily decline since the beginning of the year.

Now, analysts are saying that Twitter has revamped its financial strategy and has what it takes to be a real money-maker someday.

Lifestyle:

Technology is Now Shaping How We Connect With Our Pasts

Behind every individual is a family history. Much of who we are is shaped by our past and where we come from.

While many individuals are aware of their family history and are able to trace their line back though at least several generations, many others lack that knowledge. An increased interest in who we are and where we come from has driven the development of technology that helps us explore our backgrounds.

Below are just a few of the many ways we are able to trace our identity today and find the roots that have led to our presence.

Facebook

Friends, messages, and groups are just a few of the benefits that Facebook has provided. However, what most people fail to consider is how this online tool is currently shaping our ability to connect with individuals we never knew existed.

For example, dozens of stories have surfaced about people who found their lost family on Facebook, reconnected with family they never knew, and others who gained the knowledge of who they are and where they came from. This tool is especially useful for adoptees who search for their biological parents.

Applications

Whether you use them on your tablet, iPhone, or other electronic gadget, there is an array of applications that enable you to search your family history to trace your genealogy. These apps can help you not only find unknown family members, but enable you to build family trees, construct new connections, and trace your history back through generations.

A few examples of the most popular genealogy applications include StoryPress, MyHeritage, and Rootsmagic, but there are many more. These tools are simply ways to empower you to gather your history and trace who you are.

Individual campaigns

With technology, we can build our own blogs, present ourselves through YouTube videos, and reach the world with a few simple clicks and by typing in a number of buttons. What most do not recognize is how these kinds of technological tools are able to shape our personal identity.

With these tools, we are able to create our own identity online and connect with the world in order to find our genealogy, family, and other historical information. By blogging or putting our own personal search out there for the world to see, the word spreads and allows information to get out.

It’s not uncommon for possible family members or someone else who knows your family to reach out to you and help you on your search. Thus, social media is one of our best assets in the search for who we are and where we come from.

While there are many technology tools that are empowering us to unearth our family histories, there’s another side to this story. What most do not consider is that these searches may also lead to unwanted information, connections that are never formed, and hurt feelings on both sides of the connection.

But in most cases, we cannot help but hope that it’s worth a try.

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Google Stocks Take a Nosedive

April 16, 2014 was a gloomy day for Google and its investors. Stock prices dipped three percent in after-hours trading.

This is the first time this quarter that earnings and sales alike fell short of expectations. The biggest concern was the massive nine percent loss in payments that came from marketers per ad on the many Google sites.

Google is charged with encouraging marketers to pony up cash for mobile ads just like they do for desktop ads, but that’s been a tough sell.

It’s no secret that mobile users have outpaced desktop users recently, but for some reason marketers haven’t been willing to make that jump with them just yet. With so many expert marketing agencies Google has to woo, Chief Business Officer of the tech giant, Nikesh Arora, says that “The journey is just beginning for advertisers on the mobile side.”

As retailers scramble to play catch-up and incorporate responsive design to make themselves mobile-friendly, ads get moved to the back burner.

Google’s clock is ticking

That’s an understandable conundrum, but it does nothing to support Google’s stock values. Arora notes, “Right now, we can lead the horse to water, but we can’t make it drink.”

The company is pushing an enhanced campaign that debuted in 2013, and centers on making advertisers purchase across multiple platforms. But it hasn’t been the segue piece that Google had hoped would take off.

But the picture is not all doom and gloom. Google reports sales of $15.4 billion in 2014’s first quarter, which represents an increase of 19 percent compared to 2013.

Plus, people are clicking on 26 percent more advertisements in comparison with last year, and total earnings are at $3.45 billion, which is also better than 2013. This comes on the heels of the two-for-one stock split in early April 2014, which provoked considerable controversy.

A classy move

Google now has new Class C shares, which are traded under the GOOG ticker but do not allow investors to enjoy any voting rights at the annual shareholder meetings. If you have Class A shares, you still get voting rights.

The split was approved in court after a group of shareholders filed a lawsuit to block it from happening. That may have contributed to the 5.5 percent stock decline in the past 30 days.

Be that as it may, Google is moving forward, and spending big bucks on new technologies such as the recent purchase of Titan Aerospace. Purchasing a startup to get hold of solar-powered drones might give Google the boost it needs to drive stock prices back in the right direction.

If a drone can’t save Google, what can?

 

Social:

Why Multimedia is Crucial for Personal Branding

We’ve entered a new era of social media branding, one that thrives on photography and video content. It’s no longer enough to post a simple text tweet online. Social media analytics companies have shown that graphics and video increase engagement. You’ll need to start thinking outside of the box if you expect people to check out what you’re posting. Take a look at how multimedia is turning the tides of social media engagement. gr_multimedia

Visual Insights

With multimedia, your fans and followers get a more intimate look at your experiences. You’re not just giving them insights via text anymore – photos and videos can help capture your environment, demonstrate products, show the mood, and share the total experience. Just take a look at the enormously popular selfie that Ellen DeGeneres took at the Oscars. That single picture, featuring a dozen different celebrity faces, was retweeted over 3 million times as of April 2014. Graphics and videos can help put your followers in your shoes, sharing an exhilarating moment with an audience of millions.

Expanded Creativity

If you are an artistic individual, then you have the opportunity to showcase talents that you normally wouldn’t get to explore on a textual basis. Some people have discovered that they excel at making short Vine posts, ones that fans love to watch and comment on. Just like the YouTube celebrity boom, new voices and faces are becoming well known due to social media platforms like Vine and Instagram. Your favorite social media comedians might be on their way to producing the hottest entertainment in a few years!

Informative Capacity

Some people have a difficult time learning from text. You can appeal to visual and auditory learners by delivering information via multimedia. For example, if you are trying to demonstrate a DIY home improvement technique, it might just be easier to record it, rather than trying to write out each step as a blog post or series of tweets.

Increased Reach

Multimedia posts on Vine, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram usually track higher rates of engagement, including shares, reposts, and comments. This increases your overall reach, which is crucial to your ability to draw in new viewers and get new followers. Multimedia truly helps you build stronger customer relationships.

Multimedia posts are the name of the game in today’s current social media environment. Individual creators and organizations are striving to make their mark with interesting video and graphic posts. Start exploring your creative side, and share your experiences with multimedia!

 

Social:

Cleaning Up Your Social Media Act for Job Recruiters

When you’re in school, you might not think twice about posting those pictures of you shot gunning beer in the student dorms. However, it is no secret that job recruiters are scouring the social media profiles of prospective employees to see who they’ll hire or reject. If you plan to search for a job any time soon, you’ll need to put your best foot forward online, and make sure job recruiters see your best qualities.

Privacy Settings First thing’s first: you shouldn’t have to censor yourself just to get a job. However, there are probably some personal posts that you don’t want the public to have access to. Information about where you live, party details, and potentially embarrassing snapshots should be for your friends’ eyes only. You can keep this information away from the public by digging around in your social media privacy settings and securing your posts for friends’ eyes only. Whenever you post news items that might be of interest to the general public (recruiters included), then you can always toggle that post to “public.” Tagged Photos While you might have locked down you own profile, there might be awkward pictures of you on other people’s profiles. For example, old college drinking pictures might be on the pages of your frat brothers or sorority sisters. You can unlink these photos from your account on Facebook by clicking on the “Remove tag” button. Next, contact the person who uploaded it, and ask them to please remove the offending picture. Search Listings There’s a common online culture saying: The Internet never forgets. This is partially true. You might be surprised to see what comes up when you search for your legal name and your old screen names. For example, you might dredge up old blogs, forum posts, and accounts that could send the wrong message to recruiters. Before you actively hit the job listings, make sure that you clean up your search listings by deleting old and unwanted accounts and posts beforehand. Know Your Rights In the U.S., recruiters cannot reject you based on your race, color, sex, religion, national origin, race, age, ability status, sexual orientation, and parent status. So you should not need to hide these things on your social media, because it is illegal for employers to discriminate against people based on these facets of identity. Searching for employment can be a stressful period in your life, but you can make the process much smoother by making sure that your public social media activity does not set off red flags. Use a combination of privacy settings and untagging photos to put your best foot forward. At the same time, make sure you know your rights, since you should never have to suppress your identity for recruiters.

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