Yahoo’s Aviate Comes Out of Beta With Powerful New Features


Image: Yahoo

Aviate, the Android launcher app acquired by Yahoo earlier this year, was updated with powerful new features on Monday.

Aviate, which is now open to everyone, was an invite-only beta since its launch last October. Previously, users had to request an invitation and spend time on a wait list to get access to the app.

Unlike many other Android launchers, which focus on customization, Aviate aims to simplify your home screen, according to Mark Daiss, the app’s cofounder and Yahoo product manager.

“It’s intended to be simple … The stock Android experience is a little confusing,” Daiss told Mashable. “We saw this huge opportunity to innovate and move out of this app-centric model — this grid of apps — and really move towards something that’s a little bit more compelling for the user, and gives the user information the moment it’s useful without them having to search.”

Aviate learns from your habits, and provides recommendations based on the time of day, and what you most likely want to see at that moment. For example, when you wake up, you may see how long you slept (the update includes sleep-tracking capabilities), the weather forecast, news headlines and a brief overview of your calendar for the day.

But the app also adds context to this information. Instead of just seeing the weather forecast, Aviate will also let you know when the weather will be significantly cooler or warmer than the day before. It also knows the places where you spend the most time, and can tell you how much traffic to expect during your morning commute.

Aviate app home screens

Aviate surfaces different apps and information depending on the time of day, and where you are.

Image: Aviate

What’s more, Aviate is continuously changing throughout the day based on your location and patterns. Once you get to work, for example, the screen will change to emphasize the apps and information you typically use while working, such as email, calendar and other productivity apps.

The latest version of Aviate was built with the Incredible Labs team, another recent Yahoo acquisition, which created the Donna virtual assistant app. While Aviate doesn’t have a human-like persona, the team did build some assistant-like features into the app, particularly its calendar.

Aviate’s calendar pulls in information from all the calendars on your device, not only displaying your events, but also acting as a smart calendar. It can automatically dial in to conference calls, and send “I’m running late” emails to other participants with one tap.

Aviate also organizes your apps into themed collections, such as music, social and news, so you can easily find apps without swiping through multiple menus. The favorites section provides easy access to text, call or email for people you contact the most often.

The new, public version of Aviate rolled out to Google Play on Monday.

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Apple Launches iTunes Radio Streaming Music Service


Apple is diving into streaming music with a new service called iTunes Radio, the company announced at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco today.

Similar to Pandora, iTunes Radio will create themed Internet radio stations based on specific songs, and Apple provides “featured” radio stations as well. The service will be free for users, although it’s supported by ads. However, if you’re an iTunes Match subscriber, you’ll get it ad-free.

iTunes Radio will be available on iOS devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch) running iOS 7 as well as the iTunes on the Mac or PC. Some of the pre-packaged stations include Summer Songs and Trending on Twitter (which appears to pull in songs from Twitter Music).

Apple made deals with the major music labels for iTunes Radio in the last few weeks, reports indicate. The company first signed on Universal Music, then Warner and finally Sony just a few days ago.

Although streaming music services have been around for a long time, Apple appeared content to remain the dominant player in music downloads, offering only only an extremely basic “Radio” section of the iTunes app for online radio stations. However, user habits are shifting away from iTunes toward streaming services, market statistics reveal, and Apple clearly decided it need to compete in the space.

Whisper Steps Up Efforts to Fight Mental Illness


Image: Mashable Composite, Your Voice, Getty Creative, Didem Hizar, RaStudio

Anonymous social network Whisper is known for being, well, anonymous. But now the company is undertaking a new effort to reach its most troubled users.

Whisper is adding user-created videos to its nonprofit arm, Your Voice, with the hope it will help inspire users who are struggling to deal with mental illness and other issues many of its young users face.

Your Voice is Whisper’s non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about mental illness and providing resources to the users who need them.

The site now also allows users to upload candid videos of themselves talking about how they dealt with and overcame issues like bullying, abuse, stress or mental illness. The goal, says Whisper cofounder Brad Brooks, is twofold: to inspire people who are struggling with mental illness or other issues through encouragement from their peers, and to help provide those users — who are most often teens or young adults — with offline resources that can help them.

“Whisper being an anonymous platform, a lot of people were coming to the app to express things that were very shocking or difficult for other people within the community,” Brooks told Mashable. “We didn’t want to be in a place where we were just shutting people out or not acknowledging and doing something in a constructive proactive manner. Whisper’s not designed to be a mental health service but there’s a lot of opportunity to help people in more of a constructive fashion. “

YourVoice Press Photo 4

Your Voice’s new sharing platform.

Image: Your Voice

Whisper, founded in 2012, remains one of the most successful anonymous platforms. The company reportedly raised a $30 million round of funding earlier this year and is valued at about $200 million.

The company has faced its share criticism — most recently from PostSecret founder Frank Warren who told Fortune he thinks aspects of Whisper and other anonymous networks have potential to put young people at risk.

While Whisper and other platforms like Secret have garnered criticism, Brooks says that he and cofounder Michael Heyward have always been dedicated to protecting users.

“This is something Michael and I thought about almost before one line of code was written at Whisper,” he said. “We always viewed anonymity as potentially a two-edged sword. There’s an incredible free and liberating aspect to it, and there’s obviously a potentially negative and dangerous place and we always want to protect against that.”

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Supersized Facebook Messages Crash Tablets


Very large messages sent through Facebook’s chat client can make applications and devices crash in a form of denial-of-service attack, a security researcher has discovered.

“It has been possible to disconnect three different testing users (three out of three) by sending big enough messages, one of them reported that his tablet restarted after the reception,” Buenos Aires, Argentina-based security researcher Chris Russo wrote on the Full Disclosure mailing list.

“The chat module, which at this moment I can’t use since it looks like I have been blocked,” Russo wrote, “doesn’t have any kind of limit in the amount of characters that can be sent.”

The exact message that caused the denial-of-service attack hasn’t been made public, but Russo did post the code he used with the message deleted.

In comments attached to his posting, Russo wouldn’t confirm how big his messages were. He said he kept increasing the sizes by 1,000 characters each time until the exploit worked.

As of this writing, Facebook has not commented on the issue. Russo noted that it took Facebook six weeks to reply last time he alerted them to a security flaw. The attacks don’t appear to cause any permanent damage to device hardware, but they are likely to lead to aggravation, frustration and lost productivity for users.

This article originally published at TechNewsDaily

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Disney Launches ‘Where’s My Water 2’ on Mobile


Swampy is back with a new version of popular mobile game, Where’s My Water.

Where’s My Water 2 splashed its way onto mobile Thursday, including 100 new puzzles and challenges and a new way to play the game.

At its core, Where’s My Water 2 follows directly in the footsteps of its predecessor, which launched two years ago. In the physics-based puzzler, you try to bring water to Swampy — wherever he may be on the page. In many cases, the water must drip down through different levers on its way down. Throughout the entire process, you must also try to collect ducks strategically positioned on the board.

Where’s My Water 2 strays from the original in certain elements. After finishing a board, you can return to play it again — and again. For instance, the second time through, you may try to avoid the ducks on the screen rather than collect them, or the entire scene might be turned upside down. In the first iteration of Where’s My Water, you could only play a level once.


One of my favorite new additions to the game is its “Duck Rush” levels, which begin moving down on their own for an endless-runner type of gaming experience. This forces you to keep the water onscreen in the process and make decision quickly.

Throughout the game, you earn ducks that can be used to unlock new levels. Logging in via Facebook saves your progress, allowing you to pick up right when you left off on a new device. This means you can start a game on your smartphone during your commute and then switch to your iPad while you’re home on the couch.

The locations of friends who are also playing Where’s My Water 2 are represented by a small customizable duck icon on the screen below the corresponding level.

Where’s My Water 2 is available today for free on iOS devices, Windows Phones and Windows 8. The game is also expected to be available for Android phones and tablets in the near future.

Since the launch of the original Where’s My Water, Disney has released several other similar games including Where’s My Perry and most recently Where’s My Mickey?.

Are you excited about Where’s My Water 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Image: Disney

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4 Ways to Stop Online Tracking


Online targeting for advertising is becoming more sophisticated. For instance, Facebook is currently testing Facebook Exchange, which lets Facebook approved partners show you ads for products that you almost bought on their websites — the moment you return to Facebook.

This type of advertising can get pretty annoying. You didn’t buy that item for a reason, so why should you have to see it again?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a consumer privacy advocacy group, posted a simple, 4-step guide to stopping online tracking, because merely activating the “Do Not Track” feature in your web browser is not enough. Microsoft has made Do Not Track the default in its IE10 browser, which began shipping this week in Windows 8.

But Microsoft has cautioned that no website is required to honor the no-tracking signal, and Yahoo was the first site to announce last week that it would not recognize the signals from IE10 users.

1. Install Ad Blocker With Extras

First, you’ll need an ad blocker with extra protection. EFF recommends installing Ad Block Plus, a free extension for Chrome, Firefox and IE9. In addition to blocking ads, Ad Block Plus can be extended with an “easy privacy” option that will block a variety of trackers.

2. Change Cookie Settings

Next, add a second layer of protection by changing your browser’s cookies settings. This will prevent sites you visit from adding bits of code to collect information about sites you use and what you’re doing — such as abandoning a shopping cart at check out.

The following directions apply to Chrome, but you can adjust other browsers in similar ways. Find Chrome’s Settings menu, which is indicated by a set of three parallel lines or a gear icon in the top-right corner of your browser.

Choose Settings, scroll down to Advanced Settings and select Privacy. Click Content Settings and then click “Keep local data only until I quit my browser” and “Block third-party cookies and site data.”

3. Block Referrers

Third step, install EFF’s extension Referer Control (a phrase that has been misspelled since its inception by system programmers, so don’t blame EFF). This program lets you turn off the referrers mechanism. Turned off by default in browsers, referrers allows personal information to be released to websites. After installing, scroll down and find “default referer for all other sites” and click Block.

4. Activate HTTPS

Finally, install another browser add-on, HTTPS Everywhere, also from EFF. The extension expands coverage for HTTPS by encrypting all of your computer’s signals, so that outside parties can’t snoop or tamper with your private conversations with websites.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Karen Lizzie

This article originally published at TechNewsDaily

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YouTube Comes to Nintendo Wii U, Plays Nice With the GamePad Controller


YouTube has launched a Nintendo Wii U app, enabling users to browse and view YouTube videos using the console.

The app lets you view YouTube videos in HD (1080p) resolution and browse through your subscribed channels and various video categories.

It also takes advantage of the Wii U’s GamePad controller; for example, when you’re watching a video, you can see its details on the GamePad.

The app is available as a free download from the Nintendo Wii U main menu.

Have you tried out the new Nintendo Wii U YouTube app? How do you like it? Share your opinions in the comments.

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Is This the New Google Maps App for iOS?


Google Maps Paris 640A San Francisco-based developer posted screenshots on his blog late last night that are allegedly from the Google Maps app for iOS 6, which is rumored to be in the works.

The developer, Ben Guild, doesn’t reveal how he obtained the screenshots in his blog post, and they’re quite blurry (a sample is below). Nonetheless, they clearly show some kind of map app for iOS that has Google iconography (the car icon is a giveaway). Parts of one image have been redacted, but the LTE indicator is visible, which shows the device in question is an iPhone 5.

Without citing a source, Guild says the app is in “alpha,” and he reveals a few tidbits about the upcoming Google Maps app: It will be vector-based, like Apple Maps; it will feature two-finger rotation to any angle; it’s “super-fast” and it will support the larger screen of the iPhone 5.

Whether this is a true leak or just some developer trying to attract attention to his apps is up to you, but Google has been rumored to be working on a new version of Google Maps for iOS 6. Earlier reports suggested it may already have been finished and was just awaiting Apple’s approval.

Apple has been taking a lot of heat over its new Maps app for iOS, which is demonstrably inferior to the old Google Maps app in many ways. It has no street view or public-transit directions, and it’s said to serve up erroneous data much more often than Google’s service. The problems even led the company to issue a rare public apology. However, its 3D renderings and offline viewing abilities have earned praise, plus it features turn-by-turn navigation.

Do you think these Google Maps screenshots are the real deal? Have your say in the comments.

Google Maps iOS 6 rumor

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