Saturday, September 1, 2012

Analyze your Facebook data with new Wolfram Alpha tool

(CNN) -- The scattered bits of information you upload to Facebook might not seem interesting on their own -- a photo of a baby here, a happy birthday greeting there. But taken as a whole, your Facebook profile is a trove of data that can be analyzed to find patterns and stats about your online life (or your friends' lives).

A new tool from Wolfram Alpha churns out an extensive and personalized analytics report all about you based on Facebook data. Go to the Wolfram Alpha site, type in "Facebook report" and click the button that reads Analyze My Facebook Data. You will need to give the Wolfram Connection app permission to access your Facebook profile and history.

Once it's done computing, you'll be presented with a detailed, interactive, graph filled, time-killing report of your Facebook life. Get stats on the types of friends you have, including age ranges, relationship status and religion. See your most popular photos and posts, a chart of when you're most likely to post on Facebook, and a neat graphic showing how all of your friends are connected to each other and to you.

There are over 60 sections of information to dig into, including word clouds, pie charts and maps. You can also get a report on your willing Facebook friends by typing "Facebook Friends" into the Wolfram Alpha search field.

Wolfram Alpha is a computational search engine that is known for, among other things, being part of the brains that power Apple's voice-assistant, Siri.

Dr. Stephen Wolfram, the founder of Wolfram Research, is deeply interested in the personal analytics field. In March, he shared detailed analytics of his own work life, using vast amounts of data he's been collecting about himself, including over two decades of e-mails, a log of every keystroke he's typed for years (100 million plus), meetings, phone calls and, thanks to a pedometer, steps taken. He looked at the data for trends that would give him clues about his own life and behavior, including when he's most creative

Most people don't have that extensive an amount of data on their lives, but they probably have more than they think. While Wolfram has been actively recording this data, most people have been creating trails without realizing it. E-mail archives, FitBits, Tweets, texts and geotagged images and check-ins are all usable stores of information about your life. it's just a matter of time until there are accessible tools to extract, helping make sense out of all of it.

Wolfram says there are plenty more sources he hasn't tapped yet for his own personal number crunching, including medical data, his genome and motion sensors in his home. The Facebook tool is just the start for consumers too -- the company plans to add new tools and features in the future.

The Facebook analytics tool is fun, but also a sobering reminder of just how much information we willingly share with social networks. It could inspire some people to clamp down on the amount of information they share online, and others to record even more and embrace all the interesting possibilities of tracking personal data.

"I've no doubt that one day pretty much everyone will routinely be doing all sorts of personal analytics on a mountain of data that they collect about themselves," says Wolfram in the blog post.

Facebook ad targeting to use e-mails, phone numbers

Thursday, August 30, 2012

At 101, Facebook's oldest user visits campus

(CNN) -- She may be nearly four times as old as its founder, but Florence Detlor likes Facebook.

At 101 years old, she's been named by the social network as the oldest of their 900 million registered users.

And she also happens to live near Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, a fact that helped her get a personal tour and chance to meet some of the site's leaders.

On her own page, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg posted a photo Monday of herself, Detlor and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (who is 28, the same age Detlor was in 1939).

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"Honored to meet Florence Detlor, who at 101 years old is the oldest registered Facebook user," Sandberg wrote. "Thank you for visiting us Florence!"

Detlor says on her profile page that she's a 1932 graduate of Occidental College. She joined the site almost exactly three years ago (August 19, 2009). As of Tuesday morning, Detlor had 652 Facebook friends.

"I like to think of new friends," she posted Monday, suggesting that some on that list may have appeared thanks to her 15 minutes of social-media fame.

She's a regular, but not overly prolific, poster on the site. But in three years, she's "liked" only two things: the Sony Dash, a pre-iPad tablet of sorts, and, a site that specializes in animal videos.

Detlor's status as Facebook's oldest active user has already inspired some light-hearted competition.

"Ok -- so now I'm feeling competitive and ready to get my grandma on Facebook. She's 103. ;-)" wrote a commenter on Sandberg's page.

Detlor may be on the extreme end, but she's part of a trend that's been evident for the past few years.

The percentage of Internet users 50 and up who said they use social-networking sites spiked from 22% in 2009 to 42% the next year, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

Respondents 65 and older reported a 100% increase, while those between 50 and 64 jumped 88%. By comparison, the number of users from 18-29 who said they use networking sites rose a much more meager 13%.

Cricket to offer Muve exclusively on Android plans

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Should Google be running scared from Apple?

(CNN) -- Apple sue us next? Not a chance.

That's the gist of Google's message following Apple's $1 billion victory over Samsung in a California patent suit. The search giant is doing its best to quell fears that its Android operating system could be the next target for Apple's lawyers. And you can't blame them.

Google has to do something to keep its partners in the smartphone and tablet world from panicking, to say nothing of investors. But experts say that while the Apple v. Samsung suit didn't describe a legal route that leads directly to Mountain View, Google had better watch its back.

Apple v. Samsung ripped apart both the hardware and software used in Samsung's very popular smartphones and tablets. Arguments hinged on whether certain hardware features -- like a bezeled display and a lozenge-shaped earpiece -- had been ripped off from Apple by Samsung's designers. A jury decided that in multiple instances they had.

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Apple also filed claims that Samsung developed operating system features that violated Apple patents. Samsung licenses Google's Android operating system for its tablets and phones, and makes changes to personalize the user experience. Those small changes include pinch-to-zoom, tap-to-zoom, and bounce-back features, which fall under Apple-owned utility patents.

Google, which has stayed silent about the case until now, said Monday that these utility patent features aren't part of the core Android operating system, which runs underneath Samsung's and other device manufacturer's modifications. Google gives its licensees a plain, stock version of the Android operating system, which by itself does not violate Apple's patents. However, licensees can modify the Android system and build any feature they like, and those features could violate other patented technologies.

Here's Google's full statement in reaction to the verdict:

"The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims. Most of these don't relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being re-examined by the US Patent Office. The mobile industry is moving fast and all players -- including newcomers -- are building upon ideas that have been around for decades. We work with our partners to give consumers innovative and affordable products, and we don't want anything to limit that."

Phillip Philbin, an intellectual property attorney with national law firm Haynes and Boone, says Google's statement is a message to its partners that the verdict only applies to Samsung's products, and not the entire Android ecosystem. "It's essentially Google saying that the patent issues apply to Samsung's software changes and Samsung's hardware, but not to 'core' Android or other Android products," says Philbin.

Looking at the case, Purdue law professor Mark McKenna says Google is focusing on distancing itself from the pinch-to-zoom, the tap-to-zoom, and the bounce-back features that Samsung created, saying they aren't included in its base Android code. "Google's claim is that those features are part of the modified experience from other companies that license the Android operating system," says McKenna.

Analysts agree with Google's stance, saying there is no evidence out there that the core Android operating system has infringed on Apple or any other company's patents. But Google has yet to endure the scrutiny of a full-blown patent suit. The California jury was looking at what Samsung did or didn't do, not what Google did or didn't do. That's a key distinction. But if Google has its way, no jury will ever test its claims.

Google has gone to great lengths to keep its operating system distinct from iOS with widgets, rotary and pull-tab lock screens, and an applications menu separate from the home screen. All very un-Apple-like design flourishes. Even Google's Nexus hardware line, made with Samsung, HTC, and Asus, includes designs with rounded corners, curved screens, and textured battery covers that could never be mistaken for an Apple device.

Still Google is not immune to a patent lawsuit, even though it wouldn't be easy for Apple -- or anyone else -- to bring a case. One of the chief reasons Apple hasn't yet gone after Google, McKenna says, is because Google doesn't make any money from selling the Android operating system (it makes money from mobile ads). Since Google is giving away Android, it makes it hard for Apple to prove that the operating system harms its market share.

"That doesn't mean Apple couldn't sue Google, it just makes it more challenging to prove the direct impact," says McKenna. "That's why Apple's gone the indirect route, by suing device manufacturers that can modify Android."

And it's not inconceivable that Apple eventually decides to go directly after Google, McKenna says. If it gets on a winning streak in U.S. courts against the rest of the handset makers, it might take a shot. "This is Act 1 in a multi-act play," says McKenna. "Apple is on the record saying they want to destroy the Android ecosystem, and to do that it's either going have to go after the all the software makers, or every single hardware manufacturer that sells these things."

Whether its Apple going after its next victim, or the Samsung case going to appeal, Philbin agrees there is a long way to go. "Patent litigation takes place on at least three fronts â€" the district court, the patent office and the federal circuit," he says. "What we've had so far is just the district court's ruling and we haven't even heard from the District Judge on this yet. So this process is far from over."

The legal process perhaps, but as is the case in the fast-moving tech world, the design process has already moved on. Pick up the latest Samsung smartphone and you won't see the hardware or software features that the jury found violated Apple's patents. Samsung has learned its lesson, albeit in a very expensive way. Google already has a tight grip on Android, and you're likely to see that grip tighten as it looks to avoid any of its own patent litigation woes.

The good news for consumers is that rather than waiting for jury verdicts in the future, there's a good chance we'll be waiting for the next crop of smartphones and tablets with forms and features that are distinct -- not just a bunch of Apple copycats.

With additional reporting by Nathan Olivarez-Giles.