TIME Social Networking

Facebook Changes Default Share Setting to Private

The social network tightens default settings amid criticism of its privacy practices

New Facebook users will start out with tighter privacy settings, Facebook announced Thursday in a post that laid out out several privacy-related updates. This reverses the social network’s 2009 decision to make the default setting “Public,” which allowed everyone on the Internet, not just individual users’ friends, to view users’ content.

Existing users will be offered a “privacy checkup,” a pop-up which reminds them of their current privacy settings and shows them how to select a specific audience before posting content.

We recognize that it is much worse for someone to accidentally share with everyone when they actually meant to share just with friends, compared with the reverse,” said the company in a post.

The company has previously been criticized by privacy advocates for making its settings too complicated, and is currently under scrutiny by European and U.S. privacy officials. Facebook previously settled privacy claims with the Federal Trade Commission in August of 2012.

TIME technology

Apple Finally Admits iMessage Is Busted

Apple’s Internet-based messaging service, iMessage, has long had problems when it comes to interacting with non-Apple devices. Now the company is finally acknowledging the problems and rolling out a slate of bug fixes to make Apple-to-Android messaging less of a nightmare.

Instead of sending regular SMS text messages via wireless carriers, iMessage transfers messages across Apple’s own servers to allow iPhone users to message one another without paying carrier fees. But some people who switch from an iPhone to a non-Apple device have found it difficult to dissociate their phone numbers from iMessage. That leads to text messages from friends getting sucked up into Apple’s database and disappearing instead of being sent along to the person’s new phone as a traditional SMS message.

Users can turn off iMessage on all their Apple devices to remedy the problem, but sometimes the issue persists, especially if a user doesn’t disable iMessage before selling his or her old iPhone. One frustrated customer is suing Apple over the issue, claiming that iPhone defectors are being “penalized and unable to obtain the full benefits of their wireless-service contracts.” The claimant is seeking class-action status for the suit.

The growing backlash has now forced Apple to address the problem directly.

“We recently fixed a server-side iMessage bug which was causing an issue for some users, and we have an additional bug fix in a future software update,” the company told Re/code in a statement Thursday. It’s not clear when the new bug fix will be implemented.

Business Insider has a handy guide to help ensure your texts don’t get caught in iMessage purgatory forever.

TIME FindTheBest

Microsoft Surface Pro 3: 3 Updates That Matter and 3 That Don’t

SurfacePro3Primary_Web
Microsoft

According to Microsoft, The Surface Pro 3 is “the tablet that can replace your laptop.” Alright: let’s play along. Assuming the Surface 3’s closest competitor is a MacBook Air—and not an iPad—which of the updates matter, and which don’t?

3 Updates that Matter…

1. Display

The Surface 3’s display is both conventional and rebellious. Sensibly, Microsoft has abandoned its 16:9 aspect ratio for a more standard 3:2. While widescreen videos will no longer fill the whole space, this update will likely improve user experience for other applications, where users have come to expect portrait-friendly apps and more vertical space while in landscape mode.

Meanwhile, the increase in screen real estate (from 10.6 to 12 inches) is a defiant move. Given the success of 7- and 10-inch tablets, Microsoft is doubling-down on its “laptop-replacement” positioning, while keeping its distance from the iPad Mini (7.85 inches) and Kindle Fire HDX (8.9).

Finally, the Surface 3’s 216 PPI pixel density is far crisper than most entry-level laptops, including the MacBook Air. It’s nice to see that Microsoft has maintained its tablet-like screen sharpness even as it tries to conquer the laptop space. With all this in mind, the Surface 3’s screen is just flat-out better than the Air’s, and this will matter for undecided shoppers.

2. Weight and Thickness

During the announcement, Microsoft’s Panos Panay placed the Surface 3 (800 grams) on a scale next to the MacBook Air (1.3k grams). It was gimmicky (and maybe even a little unfair), but it proved a larger point: the Surface 3 is officially a light device, particularly as a laptop replacement.

The new Surface is also much thinner, dropping from over half an inch to 0.3 inches: right in line with the latest iPads. The comparison gets a bit murkier if you throw in the attachable keyboard (adding roughly 200 grams), but if nothing else, the Surface has shed its “bulky” reputation. That’s a big step in the right direction that should matter for consumers.

3. Hardware Design (Stylus and Kick-Stand)

It’s easy to poke fun at the stylus (didn’t everyone stop using these in 2005?) and complain about the kick-stand (it still doesn’t work in my lap), but with the Surface 3, Microsoft has forced the skeptics to take another look. The improved stylus has a premium build-quality and handy new features (ex: click the top to bring up a note taking app), while the kickstand can now be set at various levels. Six-foot-five customers around the globe can now prop up their Surfaces to an ideal viewing angle without lowering their chairs or raising their desks.

Regardless of your sentiments toward styli and kickstands, these are tangible (and well-executed!) features that will give potential MacBook Air customers a couple of reasons to think twice.

…and 3 that Don’t

1. Battery Life

With the Surface 3, Microsoft claims customers can squeeze out 9 hours of battery life, a small but respectable improvement over past models. The problem? The 13-inch MacBook Air holds an insurmountable lead, at 12 hours. Microsoft probably hopes that 9 hours will be “good enough,” but regardless, the masses will likely ignore the Surface’s improved battery life.

2. Technical Specifications

The Surface’s tech specs should matter, but won’t. For its Surface Pro line, Microsoft has championed performance, a tablet with the powerful internals of a laptop. Unfortunately, the two lower-end Surface 3s (price-wise, the most comparable to the MacBook Air) just aren’t that much more powerful than an entry-level laptop. Even if Microsoft can point to a few superior performance metrics in a spreadsheet, there’s not enough here to noticeably improve the user experience of the device.

3. Productivity (Apps and Ecosystem)

In positioning the Surface 3 as a laptop replacement, Microsoft has undercut its original argument: productivity. Back in early 2013, the Surface Pro was a productivity show horse next to the Office-less iPad, complete with keyboard attachments and powerful Office integration. Now? The Surface 3 is no more productive than its self-proclaimed rival, the MacBook Air, which can run all the same productivity apps (and more). Heck, even the iPad has Office now.

Yes, the Surface 3 has solid battery life, good tech specs, and top productivity features compared to other tablets. But Microsoft has picked a fight with laptops, and now, that’s all that matters.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME Companies

Google Edges Out Apple as World’s Most Valuable Brand

The search giant's innovative spirit saw it rise to the top of the annual Millward Brown study, edging out three-year-incumbent Apple, which according to study authors has "slowed down a bit" from its heyday as a revolutionary brand

Google now tops Apple as the world’s most valuable brand, according to the annual BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand ranking by Millward Brown.

The study found that Google’s brand value rose 40% to $159 billion while Apple, which has held the premier spot for the past three years, dropped 20% to $148 billion.

“I think the world is looking at Apple as a brand that created an Earth-shattering revolution, and I think that has slowed down a bit,” Oscar Yuan, vice president at Millward Brown Optimor, told AdWeek.

Google, meanwhile, has continued to reap the benefits of its search engine and popular Android mobile operating system, while Google Glass has set the bar for wearable technology, and experiments such as a self-driving car have underscored the Mountain View-company’s ambitious imagination and appetite for innovation.

Tech-companies ruled the ranking, with IBM and Microsoft grabbing the third and fourth spots, leaving McDonald’s as the only non-tech brand to round out the top 5.

TIME

Buzz Kill: Weed Dealer Game Booted from Apple App Store

The developer promises to bring Weed Firm back to the App Store one way or another

Apple has nixed the popular game Weed Firm from iTunes despite the fact the app held the top spot in downloads for days before it was taken down.

The game lets you follow the exploits of marijuana dealer “Ted Growing” — as he encounters crooked cops and relentless gangsters — to “become the biggest weed dealer in town.”

Manitoba Games, which created Weed Firm, said in a statement posted to its site, “This was entirely Apple’s decision, not ours.” It added that Weed Firm will return to both Android and Apple devices, even if that required altering the game. “The Apple version might need to be censored a bit to comply with Apple’s strictest requirement since they are going to be looking very attentively at what we submit from now on,” the company said.

In vowing to bring the game back, Manitoba added, “We do not want kids playing Weed Firm, but we firmly believe that adults should have a choice to do whatever the hell they want as long as they are not hurting anybody in the process.”

TIME Technologizer

Nest’s Smoke Detector ‘Recall’ Doesn’t Mean You Need to Send Yours Back

Nest Smoke Detector
Nest Labs

A problem disclosed in early April is now the subject of an official bulletin from the Consumer Product Safety Commission

Nest Labs–a startup recently bought by Google which brings high style and web smarts to mundane household devices–is recalling Nest Protect, a smoke and carbon monoxide detector, over concerns that its alarm might fail to go off in emergency situations. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 440,000 Nest Protect units are affected by the problem.

Wednesday’s recall news, though important, isn’t quite as big a deal as it sounds like: It’s more of a formality, as the CPSC is officially alerting consumers to measures which Nest took on its own back on April 3. And the “recall” doesn’t involve Nest owners having to send the detectors back for repair; they were designed all along to update their own software over Wi-Fi, a feature which makes this unexpected development less of a disaster.

The risk relates to one of the detector’s most clever features, “wave to dismiss.” If the alarm goes off because of something which isn’t actually dangerous–like a little smoke wafting from your oven as you cook dinner–you don’t need to frantically whip a towel through the air or stand on a chair to turn it off. Instead, you can merely wave your hand and a motion detector inside Nest Protect will shut off the alarm.

Here’s the rub: The company concluded that there was a chance that the feature might malfunction, causing Nest Protect to stay silent in a situation that really is dangerous. There are no known examples of any harm coming to people or property because of the problem, but Nest decided to issue a software update which temporarily disabled the feature while it worked on a permanent fix.

On April 3, Nest disclosed the discovery of the potential hazard, issued the software update which shut off wave-to-dismiss, halted sales of new units and offered a refund to any Nest Protect owner who was unable or unwilling to perform the update.

Why the delay before the CPSC’s recall notice? The agency had its own technicians examine Nest’s solution for the issue and approve it–a process which took a few weeks. It considers the formal notification it published today to be a recall, even though the resolution involves the smoke detector self-installing the update. (And as before, consumers can also return the unit for a refund.)

Nest, meanwhile, says it’s finishing a new version of “wave-to-dismiss” which will bring back the feature while eliminating the malfunction. It’ll be part of another software update which the company plans to push out in the next few weeks, whereupon it will also resume sales of Nest Protect.

MORE: How a Thermostat Can Save the World

TIME google glass

Prince Charles Tries Out Google Glass

Prince Charles Google Glass
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales tries on 'Google Glass' spectacles as he visits 'Innovation Alley' on May 21, 2014 in Winnipeg, Canada. Chris Jackson—Getty Images

Introducing, the Royal Cyborg

Everyone else is doing it, so why not the Prince? Charles donned the $1500 spectacle while on a tour of Canada this week.

We think it suits him.

TIME Oculus Rift

Oculus VR Company Sued By Game Maker Over Copyright Claims

Oculus VR

Game publisher goes to court for its chunk of change after Oculus gets bought by Facebook.

ZeniMax Media and id Software have sued Oculus VR and its founder Palmer Luckey for allegedly stealing trade secrets and infringing on copyright, among other claims.

The rift began outside of court earlier this month when ZeniMax said that it’d been wronged by former employee and game development legend John Carmack. ZeniMax said Carmack, who became Oculus’ CTO in August of last year, did “extensive VR research and development” while still working at id Software, which is owned by ZeniMax.

Because of Carmack’s work, and a non-disclosure agreement signed by Luckey, ZeniMax felt it was entitled to a non-dilutable equity stake in Oculus, which would be worth a lot now that Facebook is buying it for $2 billion. Oculus previously disputed ZeniMax’s claims and pointed out that Carmack left Zenimax after it stopped investing in virtual reality games.

The lawsuit, as published by The Verge, claims that Carmack worked extensively on Oculus technology at id Software’s offices and even demonstrated the technology to the press there. ZeniMax also claims that it has been researching virtual reality since the 1990s and came up with a VR prototype for some of its major games, including The Elder Scrolls.

“As a result of their years of research, and months of hard work modifying the prototype Rift to incorporate ZeniMax’s VR Technology, Carmack and others at ZeniMax transformed the Rift from $500 worth of optics into a powerful, immersive virtual reality experience,” the lawsuit says.

Oculus has not yet responded, but with millions of dollars on the line, it’s safe to assume this is going to get messy.

Update: Oculus has responded with the following statement: “The lawsuit filed by ZeniMax has no merit whatsoever. As we have previously said, ZeniMax did not contribute to any Oculus technology. Oculus will defend these claims vigorously.”

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Social Media

How Facebook Knows What Television Show You’re Watching Right Now

Images of WhatsApp As Facebook Inc. Makes Acquisition For $19 Billion
Getty Images

Facebook wants to make it easier for users to share what they’re listening to or watching. The company today announced an update to its mobile app that will allow Facebook to automatically detect what song, movie or TV show a user is listening to or watching. The new feature, which is optional, makes use of the microphones in users’ smartphones to identify the content. Think of it like the music ID app Shazam being incorporated right into Facebook’s interface.

“If you want to share that you’re listening to your favorite Beyoncé track or watching the season premiere of Game of Thrones, you can do it quickly and easily, without typing,” the company said in a release. If users post a song to their timelines using this feature, their friends will be able to hear a 30-second snippet of the track. Posts of TV shows will identify the season and episode of the show.

The new feature could help Facebook attract more conversations about live television events, an area where competitor Twitter excels. The feature will also, of course, give Facebook even more valuable data about the habits and interests of its users. However, the sound data gathered to identify the correct song or TV show won’t be stored by Facebook, the company says.

TIME

Dronies Are the New Selfies

The future is a scary place

The Daily Dot wrote a headline that pretty much sums up the world we’ve created in six terrifying words: “Drones are the future of selfies.”

Smartphone selfies have jumped the shark. They’re so easy to take, your grandma can do it. (And she does).

Far more intriguing is using one of our generation’s most versatile new technologies that can do everything from unmanned missile strikes to delivering your groceries to capturing your duck face. Taking selfies with personal drones is not quite commonplace but has been making waves in certain technologically enterprising communities. (Complete with an Instagram hashtag).

Dronies begin like a selfie: The subject of the photo is holding the control as the drone hovers in front of their smiling (or cooly detached and unengaged) faces. But then the drone slowly pulls back to show the subjects and surrounding landscape from above.

This static image is not a dronie:

This is:

Utilizing cute kids for the nonthreatening spread of dronies are highly encouraged:

The Wall Street Journal says that drones also make for the best family vacation photos, so start taking dronies now before they stop being cool.

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