The National Security Agency may present a united front when it defends against criticism of its bulk phone data collection, but it’s now clear that there has been at least some doubt within the ranks. Associated Press sources have revealed that there was an internal proposal to kill the phone surveillance program in early 2013, not long before Edward Snowden’s leaks made it public. Reportedly, some NSA officials were concerned that the initiative was not only expensive to run, but ineffective. It wasn’t “central” to catching terrorist plots, and it wasn’t capturing most cellphone calls. Not surprisingly, the critics were also worried about outrage if the truth came out — which, of course, is exactly what happened.
According to the tipsters, the proposal didn’t quite make the cut. While “top managers” saw it, then-director General Keith Alexander never got a peek. As it stands, the proposal might not have survived scrutiny at the highest levels. Alexander believed that there was still important value in scooping up phone records, and even President Obama’s modest proposed reforms would require legal changes that haven’t been forthcoming. However, these private concerns could come to the forefront when the law allowing phone data collection is up for renewal in June. If the NSA itself isn’t wholly convinced that a mass surveillance program is worth keeping, it may have a harder time persuading Congress to give that effort the green light.
[Image credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky]
Source: AP (Huffington Post)
Our weekly app picks
It’s Appday Sunday and that means we’re back with more of our favorites to share. Every week we bring a handful of great apps to the table and share them with everyone. Sometimes they are new apps, sometimes old standards, but every time they are apps we love to use.
Give these a look and then take a minute to tell us all about the apps you are using and love so we can give them a try. We all find some of our favorites right in the comments on these posts!
Welcome to the Sunday Giveaway, the place where we giveaway a new Android phone or tablet each and every Sunday.
A big congratulations to last week’s winner of the Samsung Galaxy S6 giveaway Istvan B. (Hungary).
This week we are giving away a Nexus 9 Android tablet!
Released in November 2014, the Nexus 9 built by HTC is a 8.9″ inch Android tablet that comes loaded with the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop.
This week we are using a new giveaway widget to handle entries. See below for entry options.
Terms & Conditions
- The giveaway is an international giveaway (Except when we can not ship to your Country.)
- If we can not ship to your country, you will be compensated with an online gift card of equal MSRP value to the prize.
- We are not responsible for lost shipments.
- You must be age of majority in your Country of residence.
- We are not responsible for any duties, import taxes that you may incur.
- Only 1 entry per person, do not enter multiple email addresses. We will verify all winners and if we detect multiple email addresses by the same person you will not be eligible to win.
- We reserve all rights to make any changes to this giveaway.
- The prize will ship when it is available to purchase.
When the Moto 360 first hit the scene, its reception was… mixed. That round display was eye-catching, but it couldn’t make up for the smartwatch’s all-too-short battery life and undercooked software. Times have changed, though. Motorola trotted out updates that addressed the 360’s early problems, and the Lollipop upgrade gave Android Wear a new lease on life through custom watch faces and a few other useful tweaks. But does that mean it deserves a second chance, especially now that rivals like LG’s G Watch R are vying for your wrist?
I’ll tackle the big question up-front: battery life wasn’t an issue. I could wear the Moto 360 throughout a typical day and still have a significant charge left when I was ready to go to bed. That was no mean feat for me, since I usually have to deal with a steady stream of Hangouts messages and work email. Having said this, I was very, very thankful for the 360’s wireless charging dock. Smartwatches needing clip-on cradles or cables are often a hassle, but Motorola’s wristwear was so easy to top up that I hardly even thought about it.
I’m also a fan of the design, for the most part. I never completely forgot about the black strip at the bottom of the display that creates a “flat tire” look, but it also wasn’t distracting (at least not on my all-black model). The leather strap makes the 360 extra comfortable, and the circular design is subtle enough that I didn’t feel conspicuously geeky most of the time. However, there’s no question that it could stand to be smaller. That 46mm-diameter case is enormous, at least on my moderately sized adult male arm. That’s true of a lot of smartwatches (the ASUS ZenWatch is particularly huge), but there’s something to be said for the discreetness of a smaller device like the 38mm Apple Watch.
The software is a tougher call, even if it’s mostly a positive experience. Android Wear is supremely handy for the basic information I like to see over the course of a day, like weather or sports scores. And in a chilly Ottawa winter, it was more than a little helpful to respond to Hangouts messages or check in to Swarm without reaching for my phone and freezing my hands in the process. The Lollipop update also added quite a few features and overall polish that were missing the first time around. It was nice to have a wide choice of watch faces, for example, and I could tune out most alerts if I set the 360 to only give me priority notifications. I didn’t have to use that last mode very often, but I was happy to know I could avoid information overload when necessary.
However, it’s all too apparent that Android Wear still needs more time in the oven. For one thing, its approach to apps is backward — unless I was launching something I had recently used, I had to go to the very bottom of a long menu just to start browsing the app list.
The interface isn’t that great at surfacing the information I need at the time I need it, for that matter. Spotify’s Android Wear card always showed up on cue, but Sonos’ controls appeared inconsistently even when there was music playing. And the watch frequently defaulted to showing apps that weren’t really relevant to the situation at hand; no, I don’t need to check out my fitness goals in the middle of the workday. Google may be right that watches are primarily about receiving passive streams of information, but that doesn’t excuse doing a poor job when I want to be more active.
Even with those quirks in mind, it’s pretty clear the Moto 360 has turned a corner in half a year’s time. It’s no longer the underdeveloped novelty that it was on launch, and it’s now my pick of the current Android Wear crop. True, it doesn’t have the G Watch R’s true circular display, the ZenWatch’s custom software or the Sony Smartwatch 3’s GPS, but I’d say of the three, it strikes the best balance between looks, functionality and price. About the only thing holding back the 360 is the software, but it’s already apparent from the Lollipop update that Google is determined to quickly improve Android Wear. If you’re happy with the current feature set, the 360 is a great buy — and I’m glad I can say that given its rough start.
Addicted to Mr Jump but can’t seem to get past a particular level?
There’s no denying that as fun as Mr Jump is, certain levels are incredibly challenging. While some levels just require lots of repetition and do overs in order to learn the lay of the land, others require a little more (unless you want to pay, of course). If you’re having a hard time getting past a certain area, here are some tips and hints that can hopefully help you master even the toughest Mr Jump obstacles!
1. Where to tap
Pay attention to where you’re tapping on the screen. Never cover the obstacles coming up with your fingers. If you’re left handed, you’ve got it made. Just tap on the left hand side of the screen, preferably in the lower left quadrant.
However, if you’re right handed and just can’t seem to cope with tapping left-handed, tap in the lower right corner of the screen. I still recommend the left side of the screen as the best place to tap if you can adjust to it since it doesn’t obscure obstacles in any way.
2. Play on iPad
The more screen real estate, the better. Mr Jump is no exception. If you have an iPad, try playing on that instead. I’ve found it makes obstacles coming up a lot more obvious, since you know, BIGGER.
3. Don’t get tap happy
It’s important to figure out where you should tap and where you should leave well enough alone. In certain areas it’s better to let Mr Jump simply walk off a cliff, so to speak. If there’s only a small gap to jump across and the other side is lower than the land you’re currently on, that’s a good indication that you don’t need to jump. This only creates more taps and more room for error, so watch for clues like this to make passing levels slightly easier.
4. Cold fingers will fail
If your fingers are cold, there’s a higher chance that your iPhone or iPad may not register taps as well. In games like Mr Jump, it can easily make you fail the level. I’ve had times where I get sucked into a game of Mr Jump for a half an hour or more. When this happens my fingers tend to get cold after a while, especially when it’s cold outside.
I then find myself failing sections I normally don’t. Blowing warm air on my fingers helps and ensures that the screen is always registering my taps. So if you feel like your screen isn’t registering taps like it should, make sure your hands aren’t cold.
5. Stick with what works
A lot of Mr Jump involves repetition and remembering what works in different sections of each level. As you find ways to pass obstacles that works, remember those and use them again. For most people this game is a game of progression, not a game that you can simply blow through. Remembering what works for you is a good way to progress faster. As they always say, don’t fix what isn’t broke!
6. Look ahead
Don’t focus on Mr Jump himself while playing. Instead, look a little ahead of him so you know what obstacles stand in your path. This way they’re less of a surprise and you have more time to react to unexpected challenges.
7. De-focus your eyes
Try looking slightly right of the center of the screen and de-focusing your eyes, not completely but slightly. I’ve found this method to work on some levels since you it lets you view more at once. This obviously doesn’t work as well on the iPad as it does on the iPhone. But if you don’t have an iPad, it’s a good trick to try.
8. Short and long, not light and hard
Don’t forget that the iPhone and iPad aren’t pressure sensitive. That means you don’t have to vary how hard you push down on the screen. You only need to concentrate on how long you leave your finger pressed down. Pressing down too hard can result in a longer press than you intended while pressing down too softly can result in your iPhone or iPad not registering anything at all.
9. Don’t skip levels
Skipping levels isn’t necessarily going to help you. Since Mr Jump is a progressive game, odds are a skill you acquire in one level, you’ll need in another. It’s best to just work your way through a level, taking breaks in between. This way the next level isn’t overwhelming when you get to it, which has been my experience with the two levels I skipped. I actually ended up going back and beating them the real way.
If you’re as addicted to Mr Jump as we are, be sure to let us know in the comments what level you’ve made it to, and of course, any tips and tricks you think can help us all get further, faster!
The last major bookstore chain wants to be all things to all people, but it turns out that’s not easy to do.
It’s not uncommon to hear someone refer to their ereader app as being a bookstore on their phone or tablet, but the folks at Barnes & Noble get about as close as you can towards making that statement literal. The Nook app is much more than just an ereader app attached to a store, it’s an access portal for movies, television shows, newspapers, magazines, and even puzzles and toys that are sold in physical B&N locations. A content portals go, the Nook app is perfectly capable of delivering a tremendous amount of content to your mobile device. Whether or not that means you want to use this app as your primary reading mechanism is another matter entirely.
Is there anything more boring than a wireless operator in the United States? Here we are again with the virtually simultaneous releases of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9 — two phones that give us a lot of reasons to be excited. But the colors available here in the U.S., sadly, are not one of them.
In a deal that is hard to refuse, mega electronics chain Best Buy is offering a free, no-contract AT&T Lumia 635 when you pick up the Xbox One 500GB Halo: The Master Chief bundle.
That Xbox One kit is already a deal at $349.99 as you get 500 GB of storage and four Halo titles found in the Master Chief collection. The rival Sonly PlayStation 4 also has a deal as Best Buy are tossing in a freebie PlayStation Camera, a $59.99 value.