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NSA

Thursday News: Fire phone, spying increases demand for cloud services, Daniel Keyes dies, and hilarious First Moon Party video

Thursday News: Fire phone, spying increases demand for cloud services, Daniel...

Amazon’s Fire phone has average looks and high aspirations (hands-on) – Well, some of the reviews are in, and they’re not exactly glowing. If the Amazon Fire phone were a serious contender to overthrow the iPhone, I might consider it. But a phone that doesn’t even have Bluetooth (It has Bluetooth 3.0 wireless technology) but does manage six cameras doesn’t really seem like it’s going to do much to the smart phone market. Dynamic Perspective, Firefly, and a gesture-driven three-panel design are some of the selling points. Assuming you want to buy.

Excepting the five cameras on the front, the Fire phone looks like an average device. In many ways, the build reminds me of the Nexus 4: Gorilla Glass adorns the front and rear, and the plastic sides reach slightly around the back. With a 4.7-inch display, I had no problem handling the phone — Bezos was adamant that this size is optimal for one-handed use, and although I prefer slightly larger devices, Amazon believes that this size is the “sweet spot” for its users; not too large, but not too small. Its 8.9mm thickness doesn’t make it too bulky, and the back is narrower than the front, so my hand wrapped around it pretty easily. –Engadget

VMware: NSA revelations have been the single biggest issue for cloud clients – So this is interesting. According to VMWare’s SVP of hybrid cloud services, the whole NSA/Snowden scandal, and the revelations about the government’s broad-based surveillance have actually increased the demand for public cloud services, which, while counter-intuitive, may also signal the extent to which people are willing to accept the risks inherent in such integrated technologies.

Initially the spying revelations created a very short-term, knee-jerk reaction that the privacy breach would mean the death of public cloud adoption, Fathers said. But months later, there’s now a general acknowledgement that public clouds can actually deliver better security, as well as performance and economics, compared to enterprises’ own infrastructure and private clouds, –Gigaom

Daniel Keyes, a Novelist of the Mind, Dies at 86 – When I first came across this story, SFWA was the only site to have extended coverage, and it wasn’t super-informative. I’ve been scanning obituaries for Daniel Keyes since, and I haven’t yet found one that wowed me. But this piece from the NYT did contain an interesting tidbit related to Keyes most famous book, Flowers For Algernon, and its inspiration:

The premise underlying Mr. Keyes’s best-known novel struck him while he waited for an elevated train to take him from Brooklyn to New York University in 1945.

“I thought: My education is driving a wedge between me and the people I love,” he wrote in his memoir, “Algernon, Charlie and I” (1999). “And then I wondered: What would happen if it were possible to increase a person’s intelligence?” –New York Times

First Moon Party – Jane tweeted this video earlier today, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a hilarious and de-mystifying treatment of a girl’s first period (and menstruation more generally). Yes, it’s advertising for the Hello Flo “care package” service, but as far as I’m concerned they’ve earned any business they get from this. May not be safe for work, although I watched it in my office, cackling hysterically, with no problem. –YouTube

Tuesday News: Rabih Alameddine loves his characters, Adobe hates you, Tech companies love transparency (sometimes), who loves a stolen book?, and when loving lasts too long

Tuesday News: Rabih Alameddine loves his characters, Adobe hates you, Tech...

Interview: Rabih Alameddine, Author Of ‘An Unnecessary Woman’ – Alameddine’s novel features a heroine who works in a bookstore in Beirut and translates her favorite stories into Arabic, never to be sold or published. Despite the title and Aaliyah’s circumstances, she is happy and fulfilled. I adore Alameddine’s response to a question about “writing lovable characters:”

“In my opinion once you do a character fully, and if the writer — and this is me in this case — actually loves the character, it comes through. The character becomes lovable. Because the truth is it is rare to find a human being fully before us that you can’t fall in love with. You might want to kill them at times, you might want to smack them and throw them off the roof, but it’s also a love affair. And that’s what, in my opinion, a good novel does.” NPR

Adobe to Require New Epub DRM in July, Expects to Abandon Existing Users – Me: Readers just want to be able to read all the ebooks I’ve lawfully purchased and used. Adobe: Screw you and all your dollars spent, too. Me: Go Team Kindle!

“The tl;dr version is that Adobe is going to start pushing for ebook vendors to provide support for the new DRM in March, and when July rolls Adobe is going to force the ebook vendors to stop supporting the older DRM. (Hadrien Gardeur, Paul Durrant, and Martyn Daniels concur on this interpretation.)

This means that any app or device which still uses the older Adobe DRM will be cut off. Luckily for many users, that penalty probably will not affect readers who use Kobo or Google reading apps or devices; to the best of my knowledge neither uses the Adobe DRM internally. And of course Kindle and Apple customers won’t even notice, thanks to those companies’ wise decision to use their own DRM.” The Digital Reader

Major Tech Companies Disclose Secret Court Orders for First Time – Reports for Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and LinkedIn are all available via link in this story, which details the new terms for tech companies to, in the words of a Google blog post, let the public “better understand how surveillance laws work and decide whether or not they serve the public interest.” Sure a lot of these disclosures are in tech’s own best interests, but sometimes those interests intersect with our own:

“Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and LinkedIn have all provided statistics on government requests for user data issued through National Security Letters (NSLs) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court orders. Internet communications companies were previously forbidden to release such data, until the U.S. government reached an agreement with several of the aforementioned companies, which was announced last week.” Mashable

Book thieves are shrinking the Brooklyn Public Library’s collection – Perhaps librarians can weigh in on how widespread a problem this is. Note that these books are not being outright stolen, but checked out and never returned. High on the list of potential targets are professional and test preparation guides and graphic novels. More digital books? Not sure what the solution is here.

“Reuven Blau reports for the New York Daily News that, while 2013 numbers are not yet available, 70,144 books were stolen from the Brooklyn Public Library in 2012 — and that this is indicative of a trend that started with staff cuts a few years ago. Library workers point out that after the staff was reduced, thefts spiked from 61,543, a 14% increase. The Brooklyn Heights branch has gone from 30 employees to 20, and one anonymous staffer points out, “We don’t have the staff to watch as much.”” MobyLives

Can couples really get stuck together during sex? – How about this for a romantic challenge? A little nookie, followed by a trip to the emergency room:

“‘Its not the most romantic ending a couple can imagine,’ says Dr Aristomenis Exadaktylos, author of a study of 11 years of admissions to his hospital in Bern, Switzerland.

He and his co-authors found plenty of patients who had experienced problems after sex – migraines, heart problems, even amnesia. But asked on the BBCs Health Check radio programme if he had come across a case of the womans vagina clamping on to the mans penis, he said ‘No’ – and added that the idea was probably an urban myth.

Two listeners, however, wrote in to dispute this.” BBC News