Top tech stories of the day – Friday 13 December, 2013

Twitter reverts nearly all the changes they made to ‘blocking’ after user uproar – Twitter has begrudgingly rolled back nearly all of the original protective measures that came with blocking other users following unrest over changes that went out earlier today. Back are features that keep users from both following and retweeting users, as well as awareness from other users when they’ve been blocked by on-screen notifications.

Earlier today the company made changes to its blocking system, which meant that any blocking of other users became more of a muting feature, with the blocker not seeing any activity from the user they blocked.

Twitter reverts nearly all the changes they made to ‘blocking’ after user uproar

 

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NSA overhaul could see an end to PRISM-style surveillance – Edward Snowden might have missed out on becoming Person of the Year, but that’s not to say he’s not been a big influence on America’s government this year. According to deep-throated persons familiar with the matter, the presidential task force is proposing a huge overhaul to the NSA in the wake of the PRISM scandal.

Proposed changes include giving bulk collection duties to phone companies or an independent third party, imposing tighter standards before NSA staffers can access your personal data and appointing a civilian head, rather than recruiting from the military.

NSA overhaul could see an end to PRISM-style surveillance

 


Samsung promises ‘differentiated’ smartphones based on its camera expertise – Samsung has instigated a small corporate reshuffle that could potentially have big implications for its future smartphones.

The company has shunted its digital imaging unit sideways so that it sits under the giant umbrella of the mobile division, in the hope of combining “technical know-how” in these two areas and ultimately “differentiating” its smartphones with better camera technology.

At the same time, Samsung expects expertise to flow in the opposite direction, allowing its engineers to create cameras with better wireless connectivity. It’s a move that makes plenty of sense given the recent spate of Galaxy-branded hybridized products, such as the slightly awkward Galaxy S 4 Zoom and hugely over-priced Galaxy NX mirrorless shooter.

Samsung promises ‘differentiated’ smartphones based on its camera expertise

 

Good Deal: get a 16GB Nexus 7 for $179.99 – If you’re looking for a new tablet but missed out on some of the great Black Friday sales last month, you’re in luck: Office Depot is currently selling the 2013 Nexus 7 for just $179.99.

That’s $50 off the regular price for the 16GB version of the Android tablet. (If you had your heart set on the new white version, you’ll still have to pay the regular price through Google Play.)

Good Deal: get a 16GB Nexus 7 for $179.99

 

Bill Gates’ favorite books of 2013 point to a better future for the world – Bill Gates prioritizes disease eradication over the proliferation of internet access and uses his vast wealth for the purposes of malaria research. It’s perhaps not a surprise, then, that his favorite books of 2013 are all pragmatic works of non-fiction question that how the modern world was built, and how to make it better. Gates has produced a list of the seven best titles he read this year — many of which were first published before 2013 — on his official site, choosing the works for their “amazing stories of human ingenuity.”

Bill Gates’ favorite books of 2013 point to a better future for the world

 

YouTube relaxes restrictions to allow anyone to live stream video and Google+ Hangouts – All YouTube users with verified accounts in good standing will soon be able to stream live footage. YouTube is now rolling its live streaming capability out worldwide, after first restricting access to users with 1,000 subscribers in May, and then relaxing that limit to 100 subscribers in August of this year.

An account in good standing must have no strikes against its name for community guideline or copyright infractions, and must not have had any videos blocked by YouTube’s own Content ID within the last six months. In addition to live streaming sports, news, and video games, users who fulfill these criteria will also be able to stream a Google+ Hangout on Air on YouTube directly.

YouTube relaxes restrictions to allow anyone to live stream video and Google+ Hangouts

 

Amazon reveals best-selling music: ‘Call Me Maybe’ is most popular song of all time – Amazon today revealed its all-time best-selling albums and songs.

The online retailer isn’t releasing specific sales numbers with the rankings, but the lists still provide an interesting peek at pop culture trends and the music Amazon’s customers have flocked to — for better or worse. Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” is the most popular MP3 of all time. She appears in a top 10 list that’s dominated by newer acts including The Lumineers, Fun (who appear twice), Psy, and Gotye.

Amazon reveals best-selling music: ‘Call Me Maybe’ is most popular song of all time

 

Stephen Hawking's Snapshots of the Universe
Stephen Hawking’s first official app teaches the basics of the universe – Stephen Hawking has gone to great lengths to promote science through books and videos, but he has been conspicuously absent in the software world – until now, that is. The astrophysicist has just teamed up with Random House on Snapshots of the Universe, his first official app.

Stephen Hawking’s first official app teaches the basics of the universe

 

New Google Tips is surprisingly helpful – Google has launched Google Tips, a site which uses clickable cards to explain the features and capabilities of Google’s biggest products. The cards explain concepts such as sharing photos with specific people in Google+ circles, synchronizing Android smartphone contacts to a Google account, and using YouTube’s video editing tools.

Card descriptions are written in colloquial English: photos are to be “spiffed up,” YouTube can be played “like a jukebox.” Clicking on one takes you to a simple walkthrough, estimating how long the process will take, and detailing the “stuff you’ll need” to complete the task. In almost every case, the first step is signing up for — or logging in to — a Google account.

New Google Tips is surprisingly helpful

 


Amazon tipped to launch online wholesale store called Pantry in 2014  – While Amazon has no shortage of rivals, it’s now reportedly gearing up to take on big players in the warehouse store business, like Costco.

According to USA Today’s anonymous sources, Amazon is prepping the launch of an online service called Pantry that’ll initially carry around 2,000 common grocery items to be sold at low cost. As long as you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll be able to fill a box up with Pantry goods that the retailer will ship for a nominal fee, assuming you’re within the weight limit.

Amazon tipped to launch online wholesale store called Pantry in 2014

 

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Evernote adds a nifty business card scanning feature to its iOS app –  Evernote has added a nifty new feature to its iOS app that lets user of its premium business service create contacts simply by scanning a person’s business card. Taking cues from Evernote Hello — the company’s standalone contact app — Evernote for iOS 7.2.0 magically turns business cards into contact notes. Users can cross reference information using LinkedIn (and even add a photo) if they link their accounts on both services.

Evernote adds a nifty business card scanning feature to its iOS app

 

Beyoncé releases surprise new album exclusively on iTunes – Beyoncé just shocked the music world by releasing her fifth studio album without warning, and the ramifications don’t end there. The “visual album,” simply entitled Beyoncé, is exclusively available on iTunes, and sells for $15.99 without the ability to purchase any of the 14 tracks individually. It features guest appearances from the likes of Frank Ocean, Drake, and Jay-Z, and each song has an accompanying video.

Beyoncé releases surprise new album exclusively on iTunes

 

 

Thanks for reading,
Andrew Richardson

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Author: Andrew Richardson

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