texting

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Business

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A BlackBerry outage strikes during iPhone launch week—for the second year in a row 

Earlier today, Research in Motion’s U.K. branch acknowledged that users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa were having service problems, which is poor timing, since the company is competing against iPhone 5 launch mania this week. We imagine the outage will spark a few oddball mutterings about sabotage by Apple—especially since the Great BlackBerry Outage of 2011, which wiped out email, texting and browsing services around the world, happened last year in the same week that Apple launched its iPhone 4S. The problem appears to have been fixed within a few hours, which means RIM probably won’t be offering free downloads of Bubble Bash this time around. [h/t Globe and Mail]

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Business

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BlackBerry could soon look deep into users’ hearts using technological wizardry

(Image: USPTO)

Research in Motion has a patent pending for a feature that would figure out how a user is feeling when they’re texting, and reflect it for recipients—a futuristic idea that (we hope) will stem criticism about RIM’s lack of innovation. The phone would guess at the texter’s mood using motion sensors, as well as galvanic skin-response sensors to determine blood pressure and heart rate, and (somewhat creepily) the front-facing camera to capture facial expression. The font, size and colour of the text would change depending on how the sender feels—for instance, red, bold and large could mean ”frustrated,” blue and small could mean “sad,” and green and wavy could mean “creeped out by the fact that their phone knows how they feel.” [Wired]

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Politics

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Andy Byford writes an icy memo to TTC employees


The TTC has had a few customer service embarrassments over the last few years (workers texting on the road, leaving their routes to pick up snacks and so on) but two within a few days is pretty bad. Last week, a TTC driver was videoed using a cellphone while piloting a subway, then days later, another was caught reading a newspaper while driving a streetcar. TTC chief exec and tough-talking clean freak Andy Byford is not happy about the blunders and released a scathing memo to staff this morning, voicing his displeasure.

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Features

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Jesse Brown: Why smart phones in the classroom equals smarter kids

Fears of cyber-cheating and sexting in school are so last year

Gadget Goes to SchoolWhen Dalton McGuinty suggested in September 2010 that cellphones and tablets might have useful educational applications, he was savaged by both the press and his political opponents. The Toronto Sun called the idea a “terrible” surrender to already tech-addled kids who want to use gadgets only for Facebook. The National Post likened it to welcoming cigarettes and sharp objects into class. Even Wired magazine panned the idea of gadgets in school as “premature,” citing the potential for distraction, cyber-cheating and a digital divide between kids with the latest gear and kids without. The Ontario Tories picked up all the outrage and ran with it, slamming the notion as “absurd,” a prime example of just how out of touch McGuinty was, and asking, “Shouldn’t our kids be learning math and science instead?” They went on to suggest that if McGuinty gets his way, we will soon have “sexting” in our classrooms.

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Editor’s Letter, December 2011: Sarah Fulford on her 21st-century nightmare

Lately, I have become mildly obsessed with doomsday stories about cyber attacks. Perhaps illogically, I worry about the collapse of the Internet more often than I worry about other potential 21st-century catastrophes—more than terrorist attacks or superbugs or even nuclear annihilation. I blame several new books for my growing paranoia. Last February, Kevin Poulsen, an editor at Wired, published a book called Kingpin about the cyber mafia, which, it turns out, is as organized as a multinational corporation.

Poulsen’s description of illicit online stores where you can buy stolen credit card numbers illustrated convincingly how vulnerable the system is to a new wave of entrepreneurial hackers.

Then, in September, the accomplished journalist Mark Bowden came out with a book about something even more terrifying. In Worm: The First Digital World War, Bowden chronicles the spread of Conficker, the potentially ruinous malware that has infected as many as 12 million computers worldwide. The Pentagon apparently shares his concern. This worm, which appropriates the computers it infiltrates without their owners’ permission, is powerful enough to take over networks that control banking, telephones, air traffic, power grids and global communications. Luckily, Bowden thinks Conficker’s nefarious creators aren’t interested in bringing civilization to its knees; their plan is much less ambitious. Like the cyber mafia villains in Kingpin, they’d rather just drain your bank account. But the scary idea at the centre of the book is that computer criminals, if they’re bold enough, have the power to take down the entire Internet.

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Politics

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Three TTC employees fired for texting while driving public transit vehicles

Texting while driving: illegal since October 2009 (Image: Lord Jim)

At this point, it’s not even a surprise: TTC driver caught operating a vehicle dangerously and/or in violation of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. Again, not terribly surprising: TTC driver caught and filmed by a passenger with a cellphone. And still yet unsurprising: it makes the front page of the Toronto Sun. The only thing that is actually surprising at this point is that TTC operators don’t realize they’re likely under constant sousveillance. The results of being caught on camera breaking the law is—unsurprisingly—dismissal.

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