Category: Tech

BlackBerry Shaming

Still using a BlackBerry? The New York Times would like you to know that while everyone is free to make their own choices and we’re all special snowflakes, if you are using the phone you are a weirdo, because the device is a “magnet for mockery and derision.”

Does the Times issue BlackBerries to its employees? Is this some sort of cry for help from a member of the newsroom? Anyway, if you need to read the story but are still using a BlackBerry, make sure you download the New York Times app.

The New Digg

The new Digg has launched. Have you visited it yet? Have you already felt feelings about the new look? It’s…well, it’s very Pinterest-y. The look is definitely cleaner, which is nice. Take a look here.

Meet The New Digg

Did you know that Digg relaunches this week? You obviously knew that because you are wise and smart and you read things, and sometimes those things are about sites being overhauled and retooled. The New Digg will even include people, actual human people, doing some of the programming. Anyway, I could point you to some posts explaining Digg’s changes and what they mean for the Internet, but I will instead point you to this terrific Awl pie chart that tells you everything you need to know.

Cell Tower Deaths

As consumers demand more and more from their phones — faster service, clearer connections — it’s incredibly easy to overlook the human effort required to connect so many people on such a massive scale. One aspect of this that I’ve basically forgotten about is the cell towers, which require real, human people to work on installations, repairs and upgrades.

Frontline and ProPublica teamed up for an investigation into the deaths of workers climbing cell towers. They found that tower climbing “has a death rate roughly 10 times that of construction.” Between 2003 and 2011, nearly 100 workers were killed on towers — and more than half of them were climbers working on cell tower sites.

Here’s what ProPublica reports (I’ve excerpted a larger portion than usual, if only to show you why this is worth reading and encourage you to click):

For each tower-related fatality since 2003, ProPublica and PBS “Frontline” traced the contracting chain from bottom to top, reviewing thousands of pages of government records and interviewing climbers, industry executives and labor experts.

We found that in accident after accident, deadly missteps often resulted because climbers were shoddily equipped or received little training before being sent up hundreds of feet. To satisfy demands from carriers or large contractors, tower hands sometimes worked overnight or in dangerous conditions.

One carrier, AT&T, had more fatalities on its jobs than its three closest competitors combined, our reporting revealed. Fifteen climbers died on jobs for AT&T since 2003. Over the same period, five climbers died on T-Mobile jobs, two died on Verizon jobs and one died on a job for Sprint.

The death toll peaked between 2006 and 2008, as AT&T merged its network with Cingular’s and scrambled to handle traffic generated by the iPhone. Eleven climbers died on AT&T jobs in those three years.

You can watch the Frontline report here.

Aaron Sorkin Will Adapt Steve Jobs biography

Remember how Sony bought the rights to Walter Isaacson’s authorized Steve Jobs biography (titled “Steve Jobs”) so they could turn it into a movie? And remember how they wanted Aaron Sorkin to adapt the book for the big screen? And remember how Sorkin said he was “strongly considering” it? And then remember how that was last fall and it’s been several months and so you’ve probably forgotten all about that other movie, because you have turned your attention to the Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher, which is obviously going to be the best biopic ever made and you can’t even understand why anyone else would even bother, even if it is Oscar-winning doyenne of dialogue Aaron Sorkin?

Wait, where was I? Right, Sorkin, Jobs. Anyway, Sorkin finally signed on to adapt the book. That’s the news here.

How Yahoo Doomed Flickr

This is the story of a wonderful idea. Something that had never been done before, a moment of change that shaped the Internet we know today. This is the story of Flickr. And how Yahoo bought it and murdered it and screwed itself out of relevance along the way.

Remember Flickr? I vaguely remember this thing called Flickr, which was the big photo-sharing site just a few years ago. Mat Honan goes long on the story of how Yahoo bought Flickr and how Flickr became “an afterthought.”

Today in Technology News: Sunrise, Sunset

Big news in the world of technology today! AOL, a brand name synonymous with the ’90s and an outdated form of surfing the Internet, has finally found a way to make some money: selling more than 800 patents to Microsoft for more than $1 billion dollars. (Microsoft will also license another 300 patents.) This is great news for AOL’s long-term financial prospects, because they’ll be fine as long as they can occasionally sell 800+ patents to another company.

(Well, but for the fact that those additional 300 patents are the only remaining patents AOL has, which means this is actually a huge one-time financial windfall that will mean very little in the long-term unless AOL can use the extra money to turn itself around. They certainly won’t be able to do this again, so they’d better hope it works.)

In other news, Facebook has acquired Instagram for $1 billion in cash and shares. The delightful photo-sharing service (yes, I say delightful, because I really enjoy using it, though I do get why non-users are annoyed by an endless parade of sepia-toned photographs of food that flood Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr) announced in a blog post that it wouldn’t actually change anything for Instagram users, seconding what Mark Zuckerberg’s post says. So — at least for the foreseeable future — you don’t have to worry about your Instagram profile/contacts disappearing or anything of that vein. The news comes less than a week after Instagram’s very successful arrival on Android phones.

This is nothing but smart. One of Facebook’s earliest innovations was adding photos, which became an integral part of how many people used (and continue to use) Facebook. But there haven’t been any new or interesting evolutions or changes to the site’s photo services (though that facial recognition feature was certainly interesting, if thoroughly creepy!). Anecdotally, I’ve seen a lot of people — even people who don’t use various social media platforms all that much — shift over to posting Instagram photos on Facebook. This means that, eventually, you will be able to post Facebook photos using some of the nifty Instagram filters and tools. It’s a positive for the companies and for users, which is nice to say about one company acquiring another.

One tech company of the past sells off a chunk of itself to another tech company straddling the past and the present; another tech company (one of the three modern heavyweights, along with Apple and Google) makes a smart investment that could pay off by improving one of its services. Good thing they happened on the same day, making the contrast nice and tidy.

“Death is very likely the single best invention of life”

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

— Steve Jobs’s 2005 commencement address at Stanford. You can read the full text here or watch the entire thing here.

* * *

On Wednesday, Apple announced that Jobs had died. There are far too many tributes and obituaries out there to even try and sift through everything. The Stanford commencement address — smartly dubbed “what may be the Gettysburg Address of graduation-speechism” by Ken Auletta — is probably the single best thing to read, and I highly recommend it. There was a rainbow over Pixar, which is nice purely for the visual. Steven Levy’s story at Wired is just as good as you would expect. Brian Lam, former editor of Gizmodo, has an excellent story about the time his site got its hands on the iPhone 4 prototype. Walt Mossberg, who knew Jobs well, also shared a terrific tribute.

Everyone who cares about the passing of Jobs has their own reasons. Everyone who feels some level of sorrow at the passing of a man they never met, never knew and never spoke with feels that way because of the connection fostered through innovation, technological advancement, branding and so much more. If you are feeling particularly moved today, consider making a donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.