TIME Google Play

Android v. iOS Gaming: Google Play to Get Cross-Platform Support

Google

Imagine playing a game on your Android phone or tablet with a friend who’s playing the same game on an iOS device — cross-platform support, in other words. That’s the promise behind what may be the most significant new feature in a medley of enhancements coming to the gaming side of Google Play, unveiled by Google at the Game Developer’s Conference this morning (the developer-focused video games show kicks off today in San Francisco and runs all this week) .

Google says the feature will bring “turn-based and real-time multiplayer capabilities to both Android and iOS,” and that it’s updating its Unity-related plugin to support cross-platform multiplayer. It’s also rolling out a C++ SDK that’ll fold in all-important achievements and leaderboards.

Other features include a new analytics tool in the Google Play Developer Console (a dashboard that helps track daily player engagement, active users, achievements and leaderboard activity), something called “game gifts” that’ll let players wing in-game objects at their peers, and direct multiplayer invite support. There are new game categories as well, bringing the total to 18 and making the genre-hunt more granular (Google’s FAQ has the new category list). Google says it’s also tweaking its ad-focused AdMob platform to help developers devise better targeted (and therefore theoretically more alluring) in-app purchases.

For anyone not attending the relevant GDC sessions, Google says it’ll live-stream them on YouTube, starting tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. ET.

TIME Technologizer

With AT&T LTE, Microsoft’s Surface 2 Tablet Just Got a Lot More Interesting (at Least to Me)

Microsoft Surface 2
Microsoft

A long-promised power-user feature arrives.

Starting tomorrow, a new version of Microsoft’s Surface 2 tablet goes on sale at Microsoft Store and Best Buy locations. Don’t get too excited: It’s just a variant of the current model, but with built-in 4G LTE wireless networking. Microsoft said that such a model was in the works back in October, when the Wi-Fi-only Surface 2 debuted.

This version of Surface 2 comes with 64GB of storage and costs $679; it’s unlocked, but designed for use with AT&T and supported by all of that carrier’s pre-paid and post-paid plans. You can pay as little as $15 a month for 250MB of data, or tap into the same data bucket you use with your AT&T phone by adding the Surface to a Mobile Share plan for an additional $10 a month.

In case you’re doing the math, the $679 price is $130 more than a 64GB Surface 2 without LTE, and $150 less than an iPad Air with 64GB and LTE. Microsoft hasn’t said anything about there being plans for an LTE version of the more potent Surface Pro 2.

Did I say not to get too excited about the Surface 2 with LTE? Let me clarify. Tablets with built-in mobile broadband are a niche market: Most buyers prefer to save a few bucks by buying Wi-Fi-only models. So I don’t expect the new model to have a major impact on Surface sales. (AT&T, curiously, won’t be selling the tablet in its own stores.)

But Microsoft pitches the Surface 2, with its built-in copy of the Microsoft Office suite, as a productivity tool. And after spending the past two and a half years using an iPad with LTE as my primary computer, I’m convinced that embedded LTE is one of the biggest productivity-boosters that a computing device can offer. While other people are hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots or futzing with phone tethering, I’m online, getting stuff done.

For the things I like to do with a tablet, the ideal configuration is a screen size of nine inches or more, a weight under 1.5 pounds, 64GB or more of storage, built-in LTE and a keyboard case or cover that doesn’t add too much bulk. The pickings are surprisingly thin in that category, but this new Surface is now part of it once you’ve added one of Microsoft’s keyboard covers. When I look at the Wi-Fi-only Surface 2, my instinctive reaction is, “I can’t imagine being as productive on that as I am on my iPad Air.” With the Surface 2 with LTE, it’s more like “Hey, that’s a plausible alternative, at least.”

The Surface 2 still has its issues. Windows RT 8.1, its operating system, remains short on apps so enthralling that you’d choose a Surface over an iPad just to get them; Office, its theoretical killer feature, has not yet been totally reimagined for touchscreen use. But the app situation is improving, gradually, and Microsoft’s working on more touch-centric versions of the Office apps. I’m intrigued enough by the concept to hope that it eventually lives up to all of its potential — and the availability of LTE is part of that process.

TIME Apple

5 Ways Jonathan Ive Changed Your World

The senior vice president of design at Apple has been the man behind the company's iconic creations for almost 20 years

+ READ ARTICLE

Apple’s chief designer Jonathan Ive is one of the most well-respected designers in the world. But the shy British-born creator rarely talks about his work in public (aside from Apple product introduction videos). Ive, who brought consumers everything from the original Bondi Blue iMac to the most recent iPhone 5S, opened up about his process, his team, and his friend Steve in a recent interview. He says his team of designers “is really much smaller than you’d think — about 15. Most of us have worked together for 15 to 20 years.” That comes in handy: “We can be bitterly critical of our work,” he says. “The personal issues of ego have long since faded.” Here’s a closer look at how Ive’s designs have changed your life in ways you may not have realized.

TIME Video Games

The PlayStation 4 Won February, but by a Lot Less Than It Did in January

Sony

But the Xbox One crept up on the PlayStation 4, and the reasons why may be related to December's results.

I’m a little late getting to these figures because I was out last Friday, but the NPD data for February is in, and continuing an unsurprising trend in month-to-month hardware sales, Sony’s PlayStation 4 beat Microsoft’s Xbox One.

I say unsurprising because the PS4 remains 100 simoleons less than Microsoft’s $500 Xbox One. Kinect or no, if the PS4 wasn’t in the lead, given the historical relationship of dominant game consoles to their prices, then I’d be surprised.

But Sony thumped Microsoft in January by a ratio of 2-to-1 (according to Sony), whereas in February, it appears Sony only beat its rival by tens of thousands of units. This is all transpiring a month before the arrival of Titanfall, mind you, which presents something of a conundrum if your predictive theory of success hinges on economics alone.

Recall that in December, the Xbox One outsold the PS4 in this country by hundreds of thousands of units. Sony reacted to the news by claiming the PS4 had been sold out everywhere much of the month, and that it was still outselling the Xbox One worldwide. In short: Sony was implying it hadn’t been able to meet demand in this country given that the PS4 was available in many more markets than the Xbox One (53 countries at the time, compared to the Xbox One’s 13).

That may partly or wholly explain what happened in February, though it also may not, because it’s speculation extracted from a marketing claim. The New York Times notes that PlayStation marketing executive Guy Longworth said the PS4 was experiencing “severe inventory constraints,” but that’s an unverifiable claim, and it’s worth bearing in mind how important it is to control the narrative when courting buyers who view these systems — not incorrectly — as risk-related investments. A sense of momentum is critical, especially early on, before the Halos and Uncharteds start showing up. When you’re shelling out $400 to $500 on a platform, it’s in hopes of being able to play all the non-exclusive stuff you’d want to down the road, and we need only look at Nintendo’s beleaguered Wii U to get a taste of what third-party abandonment looks like.

What’s missing from this picture? Worldwide sales. If Sony’s producing as many or more PS4s as Microsoft is Xbox Ones, the question is who’s selling the most, all told, and to what extent that’s impacting allocation. Sony just launched in Japan in February 22, which probably impacted its U.S. allocation (Microsoft hasn’t yet announced a Japan launch date for the Xbox One). At last count, Sony said it had sold 5.3 million units worldwide, and that was as of mid-February [Update: Sony announced PS4 sales recently surpassed 6 million worldwide]. The last we heard from Microsoft in early January, the Xbox One had sold in the vicinity of three million units worldwide.

March should be interesting because it’ll test both systems in unique ways: New IP Titanfall is going to give the Xbox One a major boost, if only because Microsoft marketed the bejesus out of it, so count on that. But Sony has inFamous: Second Son shipping late this week (March 21), exclusive to PS4, and both of Sucker Punch’s prior inFamous games were as critically lauded as Titanfall‘s been (that, and however anticipated Respawn’s online-only first-person shooter was, inFamous has the incumbent advantage).

Then again, if Sony really is experiencing inventory issues and it hasn’t sorted them by week’s end, it could be in for a stateside drubbing when NPD’s next report drops a month from now.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Software

It’s Popcorn Time Again: Slick Movie Piracy App Bounces Back After Shutdown

Popcorn Time

Well, that didn't take long.

As expected, new developers have re-released Popcorn Time’s open-source code, once again making it extremely easy to illegally watch the latest movies.

Popcorn Time gained widespread attention last week for its slick design that took all the usual hassle out of movie piracy. Instead of dealing with sketchy torrent sites, users could stream new movies with just a couple of clicks.

But on Friday, the app abruptly shut down, with the developers saying they felt “in danger for doing what we love.” It seemed like only a matter of time before new developers started running with the old code.

According to TorrentFreak, the project is now being led by developers from YTS, the site that Popcorn Time uses to index its movie torrents. However, the site itself is trying to keep its distance. “Popcorn Time is a community driven project, not owned nor maintained by a single person or entity,” YTS said in an updated statement.

In any case, Popcorn Time is available for download again on Windows, Mac and Linux. As with before, using Popcorn Time does not leave you completely immune to movie studios, who on occasion have sued individual file sharers based on torrent traffic. The only sure way to avoid detection is with a VPN service, most of which charge a subscription for ongoing access.

TIME Internet Governance

The Internet Is About to Take Its Next Giant Evolutionary Leap

Internet LAN cables are pictured in this photo illustration taken in Sydney
Tim Wimborne / REUTERS

The U.S. has long planned to give up its unique role as steward of the Internet's domain name system, but it's unclear what kind of entity will replace it

The U.S. plan to relinquish stewardship of key technical functions that ensure the Internet runs properly drew praise and criticism over the weekend. If the process goes smoothly, it shouldn’t affect the day-to-day Internet experience for users, but the shift, which was announced Friday by U.S. officials, represents an important development in the evolution of the Internet.

Although the U.S. has long intended to give up its role overseeing the system of managing Internet domain names, the proposed transition has already attracted critics who fear that the Internet’s free and open nature could be jeopardized. At the same time, the plan has received positive feedback from several major technology companies, including Google, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.

The origins of the Internet date back to the early 1960s, when the U.S. government funded research that led to the development of “ARPANET,” which was established by the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). ARPANET was eventually connected to other government, academic and research networks, forming a “network of networks” that would ultimately become known as the Internet.

Since then, the U.S. government has played a key oversight role in the distribution of numbers that make up Internet addresses, as well as the Domain Name System (DNS) that translates those numerical addresses into recognizable Internet names like time.com. For more than a decade, the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has performed those functions under a contract from the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

“The DNS is similar to a phone book, where if you know someone’s name, you can find their number and place a call,” says Laura DeNardis, a professor at American University and the author of The Global War for Internet Governance. “Most people take this for granted because they’re not aware of the technical architecture behind the curtain that’s needed to keep the Internet going.”

It remains unclear what kind of entity will assume stewardship of the Internet DNS, but the U.S. has made clear that it will “not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.” That’s because the U.S. does not want any single government or coalition of governments, like that represented by the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU), to exert undue influence over Internet governance.

“We need to have some kind of centralized coordination of names and numbers, because each name and number has to be globally unique,” DeNardis tells TIME. “Someone has to keep track to make sure there’s not duplication of addresses. The best case scenario is a balance of power in which multiple stakeholders play a role.”

The U.S. has been under increasing pressure from other countries to relinquish its stewardship of the Internet’s technical functions in the wake of revelations about U.S. Internet surveillance supplied by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. “The Snowden disclosures served as a lightning rod to focus attention on this issue,” says DeNardis, although she was quick to point out that the U.S. role in the Internet DNS is separate from NSA surveillance activities.

On a conference call Friday, ICANN Chief Executive Fadi Chehade downplayed Snowden’s role, according to Bloomberg. In truth, the U.S. never intended for its Internet stewardship to go on indefinitely. As far back as 1997, the U.S. made clear that its ultimate goal was to privatize the Internet’s technical functions to support a “multistakeholder” model of governance. The current U.S. contract expires on September 30, 2015, so the NTIA is asking ICANN to bring together stakeholders from around the world to craft a proposal for the next stage of Internet governance.

“The timing is right to start the transition process,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling. In a statement, NTIA said that it has “communicated” to ICANN that the proposal must have “broad community support” and ensure the “security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS” and maintain the openness of the Internet as a global platform. Importantly, the U.S. will retain responsibility for the .mil, .gov, and .edu top-level domains.

Predictably, the proposed transition has already begun to be politicized. Following the announcement, Newt Gingrich, the Republican former House Speaker, tweeted: “Every American should worry about Obama giving up control of the Internet to an undefined group. This is very, very dangerous.” He added: “What is the global internet community that Obama wants to turn the internet over to? This risks foreign dictatorships defining the internet.”

The proposed transition is also likely to be politicized at an international level, says Lauren Weinstein, a veteran Internet policy expert. “Most of the issues involved in this area are primarily technical in nature,” says Weinstein. “Unfortunately, in today’s international environment, there is a real risk of this matter turning into a toxic global political football, which would obviously not be the best situation for making rational decisions about such complex matters.”

For now, the response from the U.S. private sector has been positive, and several major technology companies praised the U.S. announcement. “The internet was built to be borderless and this move toward a more multistakeholder model of governance creates an opportunity to preserve its security, stability and openness,” Vint Cerf, Google’s chief Internet evangelist, said in a statement emailed to TIME.

Len Cali, AT&T’s senior vice president for global public policy, called the transition “an important step in the ongoing evolution of the global Internet.” Verizon was similarly upbeat. “We applaud NTIA for recognizing the global relevance of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions and the current maturity of multi-stakeholder frameworks,” Craig Silliman, Verizon’s senior vice president for public policy, said in a statement.

Rebecca Arbogast, Comcast’s senior vice president for global public policy, said her company is also supportive: “Comcast NBCUniversal supports the private sector led, multistakeholder approach to Internet governance, and commends NTIA’s longstanding commitment to advancing that model and its stewardship of this key functionality.”

DeNardis is optimistic that the transition will go smoothly, but points out that there isn’t even a proposal on the table to replace the U.S. as steward of the DNS. “I expect that everything will go well, but the Devil will be in the details,” she says. “If everything goes smoothly, everyone should still be able to watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix.”

TIME social

The Comprehensive Guide to Facebook Privacy Settings

The first thing you have to realize about Facebook: Nothing you put there is truly private. Yes, you can control how users see or don’t see your profile. But every time you like a product or even look at a page, the company itself is taking note. This doesn’t mean that some day Facebook will malevolently release your every click to the world. But it does mean that Facebook is not your private diary, and what you do on the website gets collected and cataloged. That’s worth keeping in mind whenever you use the service.

That said, Facebook is a great way to stay in touch and share small and big moments with family, friends and assorted other connections. The key is making sure you’re presenting the most appropriate profile possible to each friend. So let’s go over the various settings you can change to ensure pictures of your wacky jaunt to Vegas don’t end up at the top of your boss’s news feed. Since Facebook tends to opt you in automatically to sharing information as new features are released, it’s a good idea to check your privacy settings every few months to maintain the level of transparency you want.

Check your current basic privacy settings

When you log in to Facebook, in the top right corner are two different ways to access your privacy settings. Clicking the lock icon opens a drop-down menu that shows Privacy Shortcuts. From here, you can make a few key changes to your settings.

Facebook

Who can see my stuff?

In this section, you get three settings to control how your posts are seen on the site and by whom.

Who can see my future posts?

Your options here are Public, Friends, Only Me and Custom. What you set this to becomes the default sharing setting for all your future posts. It does not affect anything you’ve previously posted.

We recommend you set this to Friends. If in the future you want to post something that you don’t want all your friends to see, you can change this setting right in the post box. No need to come back to this default setting for one post.

You can also group your Facebook Friends in lists and restrict your posts to those lists. Use the Custom option for that.

Only set posts to Public that you are very sure you want out on the Internet forever. Public posts will be captured by Google and other web indexing services and made available to the world for all to see.

Where do I review who can see or find things I’ve posted or been tagged in?

This will take you to the Activity Log page. Here you can look at every post you’ve written, every photo you’ve uploaded, every friend’s post you’ve liked and more. Basically, everything you’ve done on Facebook or been tagged as doing by others will show up here.

As you go down the list, you can un-like posts you don’t want to be associated with, take yourself off tagged photos and even see posts you’ve hidden from your personal timeline.

You can also change who can see your posts and photos (i.e. custom setting) on an individual basis. And for your friend’s posts you’ve liked and commented on, you can see the privacy settings on those. Didn’t know that post you commented on was set to Public? You do now.

What do other people see on my timeline?

This will take you to a page where you can view your timeline the way others see it, even the public. You won’t see much difference in your timeline view if you choose to see what it shows to different friends. This is mostly if you have set certain posts to be restricted (or thought you had).

One thing that is of interest is what is public — for example, the header picture you set to be at the top of your timeline. That’s right: If it’s a picture of your kids, that is public.

Facebook

Who can contact me?

People who are not your Facebook friends can still send you messages. This is where you can change that.

Whose messages do I want filtered into my Inbox?

It comes as a surprise to many people that they have a Facebook inbox. It’s hidden down in a few menus. First, click on Messages on the left column of your Facebook home page under your name and profile picture. On the Messages page that then appears, click on the downward arrow next to the word More and choose Unread. You will now see the messages you never knew you had.

You have two choices for filtering what messages get to you: Basic (loosely defined as “people you may know”) and Strict. What this boils down to is do you want messages from people who are friends of friends or not at all? Basic is more lenient with allowing emails; Strict is not.

Who can send me friend requests?

The default here is Everyone, because Facebook wants your network of social interactions to grow. But if you want to limit requests, you can always change it to only allow Friends of friends to send you requests.

Facebook

How do I stop someone from bothering me?

This one is simple. Just enter in the name of the person or their email. Facebook will unfriend them for you, stop them from starting a new conversation with you and prevent them from seeing any of your posts.

Facebook doesn’t like you to unfriend other users, and it provides a few alternate courses of action including messaging the friend to let them know they are bothering you as well as instructions on how to hide someone’s updates from your news feed without unfriending them.

If you later change your mind, click on the View All Blocked Users to see who you have blocked, and unblock them. You will have to wait 48 hours to reblock them again.

Advanced settings

Now that we’ve covered the basics of privacy settings, we can dive into a few more options that will make your Facebook experience more pleasant.

Facebook

Customize all your timeline settings.

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, go down to the next section, Timeline and Tagging. From there, you can control exactly who sees what on your timeline, who can post to your timeline, and who can tag you in photos and posts. To check how people see your timeline, you can type any user’s name into View As. It’s a quick way to double-check that your boss doesn’t see your vacation pictures.

To customize your timeline settings, click on the button in the far right corner to reveal a drop-down menu and select Privacy Settings.

Who can post on your timeline?

It’s set by default to Friends, and the only other option is to allow only yourself to post on your timeline. This gives you the most control over what appears on your timeline.

Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your Timeline.

If you are concerned about getting tagged in a photo that you don’t want all your friends on Facebook to see, this is the setting for you. Once enabled, you’ll have to manually approve any photo or posts you are tagged in before they appear on your timeline. Note that this only affects timeline; those updates will still appear in searches, the news feed and other places unless you un-tag yourself.

Review what other people see on your timeline.

As we mentioned above, it’s a perfect way to check that your mother or boss won’t see what you don’t want them to.

Who can see posts you’ve been tagged in on your timeline? & Who can see what others post on your timeline?

These areas give you a great deal of flexibility, with options ranging from Everyone to Friends of Friends to custom lists. Using these two in conjunction with manually approving what photos and updates you’ve been tagged in goes a long way to keep prying eyes away from more sensitive Facebook updates.

Review tags people add to your own posts before the tags appear on Facebook.

This is an important option if you are concerned about a photo popping up on your timeline. This applies only to photo tagging by your Facebook friends. You’ll always be notified if someone who’s not your friend tags you in a photo.

When you’re tagged in a post, who do you want to add to the audience if they weren’t already in it?

This one sounds more complicated than it is. Often a Facebook friend of yours will make a post and tag you in it. The option here allows all of your Facebook friends to see an update or photo you’ve been tagged in by someone they aren’t friends with themselves (the Friends of Friends function).

You can choose to remain tagged but have none of your other Facebook friends see that update, limit who sees that update to certain groups of friends, or you can outright block certain Facebook friends altogether by using the Custom option.

Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are updated?

Facebook uses face-matching technology to suggest who you should tag in photos. It will only suggest people that are on the user’s friends list. If you don’t want to show up as an option when your friends are tagging photos, set this to No One.

Facebook

Blocking

If you want to take steps to keep people away from your profile, this is the section for you.

Restricted list

If you don’t want to un-friend somebody but you don’t want them to see all of your information, you can add them to the Restricted List. This means they can only see your public information, but they have no way of knowing you’ve limited their view (unless they happen to see someone who isn’t restricted browsing your profile — but that’s probably not going to happen).

Block users

You can also just straight up block somebody. This means this person cannot be your friend. This is an excellent setting if you have stalkers or other people consistently bothering you. Note that this does not stop them from interacting with you in apps, games or groups you’re both a part of.

Block app invites

In addition to blocking and restricting people from your profile, you can also block app invitations on a user-by-user basis. So if your Aunt Jackie keeps bombarding you with FarmVille apps, you know what to do.

Block event invites

Tired of your nephew inviting you to his New York City raves every weekend? Typing the name of the Facebook user into this section will stop you from seeing any future event invites from that person.

Block apps

Some apps and Facebook games are great fun at first, but after a while, you want to drop them. You can remove the app or game (see the Apps you use section, below) or block the app, which means it can no longer contact you or get non-public information about you through Facebook. If you are getting emails from the app, you will have to use the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email.

Facebook

Customize your app privacy

After you finish adjusting the blocking section, click over to the App Settings section. It’s not quite as obvious as changing your timeline settings, but apps often gain a lot of access to your information, and they can do things you might not want them to: collect data about your location, post on your timeline and more.

Apps you use

Click Edit next to a listed app to gain all sorts of controls, including who can see that you are using the app to removing the app altogether. If you want to remove an app, click on the X to the right of the Edit button.

Apps others use

This is where you can control what apps find out about you when you are the friend of the person using the app. Choose exactly what information apps can pull from your profile in 17 different categories.

Instant personalization

Facebook provides profile information about you to outside sites to “personalize your experience.” That’s Facebook code-speak for looking at your profile to deliver ads and content the company believes you’ll be more interested in. Sites listed include Bing, Yelp, Zynga and others.

If you don’t want these outside sites to pull your profile Facebook, click the checkbox in this section. You’ll get two warnings before it actually happens, so be sure to click through all boxes.

Old versions of Facebook for mobile

If you use an older version of Facebook mobile (such as outdated versions of Facebook for Blackberry), you won’t be able to select who can see your updates when posting from that app. You can set it here instead.

Facebook

Customize your ad settings

Facebook is now a pervasive marketing and advertising tool, and all sorts of businesses want access to your preferences so they can better target you. It’s kind of impossible to use Facebook without leaving some sort of trail of breadcrumbs for advertisers, but you can reduce this in a couple of ways.

First, go to your Ad Settings, located right under App Settings. If you don’t want Facebook to use your preferences in ads, click on the Edit button on the right of the Ads & Friends and Third Party Sites and then change those settings to No One. That means your name won’t get used in an ad for something that you’ve liked. However, this won’t prevent sponsored posts from companies you’ve liked — those items that appear in the news feed, not ads — from being sent with your name. And you’ll still receive sponsored posts from companies your friends have liked.

If looking at targeted ads gives you the heebie-jeebies, you can dial down the frequency of the ads by manually hiding stories by each company that targets you. It’s a cumbersome task, but it allows you to get rid of ads that are particularly annoying. You can do this by clicking the small X in the upper right corner of an ad.

Taking these steps will help you control who sees your Facebook page, but you should check every so often to make sure your privacy settings have remained the same.

Still have questions? Leave them in the comments below, and we’ll see what we can do to find answers for you.

This article was written by Katharine Knibbs and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME

Twitter’s CEO Schedules His First Visit to China

Newest Innovations In Consumer Technology On Display At 2014 International CES
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo speaks during the Brand Matters keynote address at the 2014 International CES at The Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on January 8, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller—Getty Images

His product is banned there so dinner conversation could be kind of awkward

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has scheduled his first visit to China for a “personal” tour of the country, where some 600 million internet users are officially banned from tweeting.

Reuters reports that Costolo will meet with students, professors and local officials in Shanghai, including representatives of the city’s free trade zone.

Twitter insisted that Costolo had no plans to lobby for an end to China’s Twitter ban, or even a modest workaround. “We have no plans to change anything about our service in order to enter the market,” read an official statement from the company.

[Reuters]

TIME Technologizer

How a 1980s Gadget Presaged a 21st Century Investigation into Vermeer’s 17th Century Art

In the 1980s, getting high-quality color photos into a home computer was almost impossible -- unless you had a Digi-View.

+ READ ARTICLE

If you’re interested in art, technology and the intersection thereof, you need to see Tim’s Vermeer, the documentary produced by Penn Jillette and directed by his performing partner Teller. In its own way, it’s about a subject near to those gifted illusionists’ hearts: magic. In this case, the magic in question is the technique — or perhaps technology — Johannes Vermeer used in the 17th century to capture color and light with a realism that has dazzled and confounded the world ever since.

The Tim of the title is Tim Jenison, the founder of NewTek, the video technology company I first became familiar with back in the 1980s when it made products for Commodore’s way-before-its time Amiga computer. Much more recently, Jenison became obsessed with unlocking Vermeer’s secrets, began investigating the possibility that the master used lenses to project a real-world image onto his canvas, and…well, I don’t want to spoil the story for you. (My colleague Richard Corliss’s enthusiastic review has more details, and Kurt Andersen wrote an excellent piece last year about Jenison’s quest for Vanity Fair.)

Tim’s Vermeer briefly mentions NewTek’s three best-known products: the Video Toaster and TriCaster — two breakthrough pieces of desktop video production hardware — and LightWave 3D, an animation software package. But as an old Amiga junkie, when I think of NewTek, I also think of its first product: Digi-View.

Here’s an ad for it from the November 1989 issue of AmigaWorld magazine:

Digi-View
An ad for NewTek’s Digi-View, as seen in the November 1989 issue of AmigaWorld magazine AmigaWorld

Digi-View was a device that let you aim a video camera (supplied by you) at an object or photograph. It used a color wheel to photograph multiple images with a total of up to 2.1 million colors, which it then pieced together into a high-quality digital image on the Amiga, in up to — trust me, this was spectacular at the time — 4096 colors. Nothing else at a consumer-friendly price point could compete with it.

The gadget, which debuted in 1986 and sold for $200, was a big hit — maybe the best-known Amiga peripheral of its time. I never owned one, mostly because I couldn’t afford a video camera, but it was one of the things that convinced me to buy an Amiga in the first place, in 1987. And if you showed the results to PC owners who didn’t have an Amiga, they might not be able to figure out how you captured such a realistic image with a home computer.

Girl With a Red Hat
Vermeer’s Girl With a Red Hat, circa 1665 Wikipedia

It was not, however, the sort of product that would matter forever. Instead, it was an ingenious, elegant stopgap that let you get really nice color images into a PC years before digital photography became a consumer technology.

In other words, Digi-View had something in common with the methods Vermeer may have used — Jenison certainly makes a strong case that the artist was doing something involving technology that allowed him to do things that shouldn’t have been possible at the time.

And just to connect the dots even more evocatively, one of the Vermeer paintings shown and discussed in the movie is “Girl With a Red Hat.” When I dug through the Internet Archive’s collection of AmigaWorld issues looking for a Digi-View ad, the one I came up with, shown above, happened to show the device being used to capture a picture of a girl with a red hat. A coincidence, I’m (pretty) positive — but one that made me smile.

TIME Airlines

Now Airlines Are Actually Nixing Fees and Adding Some Services

Phone on Plane
Getty Images

United Airlines announced that starting in April and spreading to most domestic aircraft by the end of the year, passengers will be able to stream hundreds of movies and TV shows on personal devices free of charge on planes

Airlines are rolling out entertainment amenities that travelers want—expanded Wi-Fi and connectivity, fresh content for streaming on personal devices—and in a big surprise, they’re much cheaper than previous options. In some cases, they’re free. But don’t get used to it.

When airlines began widely offering Wi-Fi on planes five or so years ago, the general response by travelers was a reluctance to pay for service that was of a lower quality and higher cost compared to the Wi-Fi they were accustomed to on the ground—which more often than not, was and remains free. More recently, the results of a survey from Honeywell demonstrated that travelers clearly want Wi-Fi when traveling by plane: Nearly 9 out of 10 travelers said they’d be willing to forsake an amenity, such as extra legroom, in exchange for faster, more consistent in-flight Wi-Fi.

That survey, however, didn’t factor the cost of Wi-Fi into the equation. Gogo, by far the largest provider of airline Wi-Fi, charges $14 for 24-hour access and $49.95 per month for unlimited use on all participating airlines. It seems like the costs, combined with the perception of service that’s not as good as one gets for free at Starbucks, as well as the vast array of other fees encountered by airline passengers today, has left the average traveler thinking that in-flight Wi-Fi is just not a particularly good value. A different poll, published last summer, showed that only 7% of coach-class passengers said that in-flight Wi-Fi was worth the price. (By contrast, roughly two-thirds of the big shots in first class and business class thought Wi-Fi was worth the money, but then again, they were probably traveling with expense accounts.)

(MORE: Airline Travelers, Your Future Will Look a Lot Like … Cleveland)

Lately, airlines have shown interest in providing Wi-Fi and in-flight streaming services at cheaper rates, or sometimes totally for free. This is especially noteworthy because as anyone who has hopped on a flight periodically over the past decade can attest, the general industry trend has involved adding more fees for services that used to be included in the price of travel, and raising fees for services that have always cost extra.

Yet JetBlue introduced free Wi-Fi in December, and Delta added a $1.95 option to use Wi-Fi and mobile apps on smartphones on flights shorter than two hours. Previously, Southwest rolled out an alternative to its usual $8-per-flight Wi-Fi, allowing travelers to text via Wi-Fi for a $2 fee.

Now, United Airlines announced that starting in April and spreading to most domestic aircraft by the end of the year, passengers will be able to stream hundreds of movies and TV shows on personal devices free of charge on planes. There will be no need to pay for United’s usual in-flight Wi-Fi in order to access the content, which includes “Downton Abbey” and the Netflix original “House of Cards among the TV options, as well as movies you’d actually want to watch, such as all three “Iron Man” films. Apple smartphone and tablet users must download the United app for access, while laptop users don’t have to bother. (Android users are shut out for now, but the airline says they should have access too before the end of the year.)

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Travelers will surely enjoy the rare freebie doled out by United and other carriers. But they shouldn’t necessarily expect to have these services at their disposal for free indefinitely. When JetBlue rolled out its free Wi-Fi, it stated that the service was only available on a complimentary basis “through June 2014.”

As for United, the cost of its new streaming entertainment option is initially being covered by a sponsor, the airline’s MileagePlus Explorer credit card. When the Chicago Tribune asked the airline if and when passengers may be forced to pay for the service, United offered no clue about what’s likely to happen. “We can’t speak about what might happen in the future,” a spokesperson said.

In other words: Given the industry’s track record, at some point down the line, you should be prepared to cough up some cash.

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