Monthly Archives March 2015

Down Syndrome Awareness – Paint Your Nails Blue

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Blue Nails Campaign logo.

Those who often read the Schooley Mitchell Blog may recognize my name, Christine Wilson. I have been writing articles since June of 2013, and have learned a lot from the experience. Today, I would like to take a moment to discuss another experience of mine and all it has taught me.

In September of last year, my friend Rebekah and I had the opportunity to begin volunteering with an amazing young woman named Steph. Steph has Down syndrome, and my friends and I spend two hours with her every Monday. We go to movies, bake, have dance parties, and basically do all the things you would do with a best friend.

Steph has taught me a lot about kindness and how something as simple as friendship can mean the world to someone. She has also introduced me to a whole other side of myself; a compassion I did not know previously existed. Needless to say, Steph is pretty special to me.

Steph and I

Steph and I showing our support for the cause by wearing blue and painting our nails!

I now also work with two four-year-olds with Down syndrome, named Declan and Moira, to help develop their fine motor skills in a group setting. Through spending time with these awesome kids and their amazingly inspiring mothers, I became aware of the Blue Nails Campaign. The organization based out of Durham Region is focused on Down syndrome awareness.

The Blue Nails Campaign started when Declan was a baby. His mother April asked her friends and family to paint their nails blue to show support for Declan. Four years later this movement, which got its start in Ontario, has gained recognition in 18 countries across five continents. Now, more than 28 mothers of children under five with Down syndrome are on a mission to advocate on behalf of their children, and to “raise awareness about their potential ability, until they are old enough to do this for themselves.“

I am writing this now, asking everyone who reads this post to paint their nails blue this coming March 21 and every year that follows. March 21 is recognized by the United Nations as World Down Syndrome Day, and will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2015. The date 3/21 represents the chromosomal condition Trisomy 21, which causes Down syndrome.

For the Blue Nails Campaign, please paint your nails any shade of blue and post pictures on social media to spread awareness for Down syndrome. You can post your pictures to the Blue Nails Campaign’s Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/2013bluenailswdsd. When posting the pictures on Twitter, remember the hashtags #BlueNailCrew or #seetheability.

Please spread the word about this date to your friends, family, and coworkers. Something simple can mean the world to someone else. For those with Down syndrome and their loved ones, painting your nails blue is that something simple.

Thank you.

Twitter Cracks Down on Online Abuse

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Twitter has been under a lot of pressure to change the way it handles online aggression after CEO Dick Costolo admitted the social media giant “suck[s] at dealing with abuse.” Now, Twitter has implemented new policies in an attempt to put an end to the public posting of explicit images or videos without the subject’s consent.

The company has added “intimate photos or videos” to the list of confidential information users cannot post without the subject’s consent. Other private information includes credit cards numbers, addresses, and Social Security or National Identity numbers.

Intimate photos or videos have also been added into Twitter’s abusive behavior policy, which reads:

Users may not make direct, specific threats of violence against others, including threats against a person or group on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, or disability. In addition, users may not post intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject’s consent.

Any user found to be violating the updated policy will have their photos or videos deleted and their accounts locked. They could also face permanent suspension from Twitter, if the company deems their intent was to harass another person.

Samsung’s Milk Music Turns One, Introduces Free Web Player

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March 9 marked the first birthday of Samsung’s Milk Music streaming service. To celebrate, it has launches a free Web music player. Previously only available on Samsung devices, Milk Music can now be enjoyed by anyone across all platforms.

“Now you can get all your favorite stations on your computer with the Milk Music Web Player,” said Samsung.

Users can now enjoy more than 13 million songs across over 200 hundred stations online. On touch screens, an interactive dial allows users to navigate between songs, while the web version “has transformed into a full-screen tuner making navigating across genres and stations simple and fluid,” the South Korean tech company said.

To take advantage Milk Music, users can sign in to their existing Samsung account or create a new one for free, regardless of whether or not they own a Samsung device. Those listening for free will have to put up with the occasional ad, or pay $4 a month for a premium membership.

Microsoft Warns PC Users Could be Vulnerable to “Freak” Security Bug

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Microsoft Corp has recently warned hundreds of millions of Windows PC users they that they are potentially vulnerable to attacks from the recently uncovered “Freak” security bug. Although this problem was initially thought to only threaten Android and iOS devices, Microsoft announced on March 5 that it could pose a hazard on Windows devices as well.

The “Freak” weakness could allow attacks on PCs which “connect with Web servers configured to use encryption technology intentionally weakened to comply with U.S. government regulations banning exports of the strongest encryption,” the Financial Post writes. If successful, hackers could spy on communications as well as infect PCs with malicious software. Before the government secured them, whitehouse.gov and fbi.gov were among the vulnerable sites.

Experts are not overly concerned with the issue, however. The vulnerability is said to be difficult to exploit because hackers would have to spend hours cracking the encryption before launching an attack. This includes finding a vulnerable web server, breaking its key, and then finding a vulnerable PC or mobile device and gaining access to it.

“I don’t think this is a terribly big issue, but only because you have to have many ducks in a row,” said Ivan Ristic, director of engineering for cybersecurity firm Qualys Inc.

Microsoft, Apple, and Google are all working of developing methods to make an attack more difficult. Microsoft is disabling settings on Windows servers which allow the use of weak encryptions, and is investigating the threat to PC users.

Pricey Details of the Apple Watch

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If you are an Apple fan intent on owning its newest wearable, you had better start saving up. The new Apple Watch, available for pre-order on April 10, will prove to be among the most expensive devices in the wearable universe to date.

The least expensive model of the Apple Watch, a 38mm aluminum Sport model, will cost $349. If your wrist requires more than just 38mm, the 42mm version costs an extra $50.

The price of the watch continues to increase based on the material and make of the bracelet, with the stainless steel model starting at $549, and topping out at $1,049.

Additionally, there is an 18K gold version of the watch which starts at $10,000. But, if you are in the market for la crème de la crème of wearables, the 38mm Edition model with an 18K Rose Gold case and Rose Gray Modern Buckle is the most expensive version, costing a cool $17,000.

The watches will begin shipping on April 24.

Number of “Likes” on Facebook Pages to Drop Soon

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Anyone who runs a Facebook Page will likely see its “Like” count drop in the near future, as the company attempts to make the count more accurate.

Facebook is changing the way its Page likes are counted, subtracting accounts that have been manually deactivated or memorialized. It is important to note that inactive profiles will continue to count even if the user hasn’t logged in for a long while.

This is a practice Facebook likely should have kept up with since the beginning, but since it hasn’t, Facebook says to expect a “slight dip” in the number of Likes a Page has. The exact number per Page is impossible to guess, however, as it will be relative to the number of Likes the Page had to begin with.

Facebook says this shift is not effective immediately, but will begin to roll out in “the coming weeks.”

Kentucky to Phase out Landline Phones

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Kentucky is the latest U.S state to join the trend of deregulating landline telephone services, as cell phone and high-speed Internet access are eclipsing the 100-year-old technology.

The state Senate recently voted 30-3 to strip the Public Service Commission of its ability to require that telecommunication companies install and maintain landline telephone service. Governor Steve Beshear said he will sign it into a law.

The bill will only apply to areas with more than 15,000 households, so rural mountain areas with poor cell service will be able to keep their landlines. Telecommunications companies will not be given the right to forcefully take away someone’s landline service in an urban area unless the Federal Communications Commission approves it.

“Consumers are demanding new technology and this bill will allow that investment,” AT&T of Kentucky President Hood Harris said, also noting an average of 8,000 of AT&T’s Kentucky customers each month drop their landline service.

Opponents to the bill warn that new households cannot be guaranteed a landline if they desire one. As well, the Alarm Industry Communication Committee sent a letters to Kentucky lawmakers last week noting that new telephone technologies do not always support home-security systems.

CRTC Rules Northwestel Must Reduce Rates

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Northwestel, the largest telecom provider in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon is being ordered by the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) to reduce its rates for residential Internet service by 10 to 30 percent. In addition, the company cannot raise its rates again until 2017 at the earliest, at which point any changes must be made with the permission of the Commission.

The CRTC began investigating Northwestel’s rates in 2013, concerned that its prices approached three to four times those in Southern Canada.

“Although we recognize the exceptional situation that exists in Northwestel’s territory, we must not let these challenges hinder the development and affordability of telecommunications services in the North,” CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement. “Access to reasonably priced Internet services plays an essential role in the North’s economic and social development. With this decision, we are reducing the gap between what consumers pay for Internet services in the northern and southern parts of Canada.”

Northwestel can no longer charge customers an additional fee for only using its Internet services without having a telephone bundle. Additionally, the company must reduce the price it charges customers who go over their monthly data plan by at least $0.05 per gigabyte. Northwestel currently charges $2-3 per gigabyte for overages.

These changes must be in effect by February 2016, but customers should begin seeing reductions in their bills by May 4, 2015.

BlackBerry CEO Open to Creating New Tablet

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Despite lackluster sales of the BlackBerry Playbook back in 2011, BlackBerry CEO John Chen is considering taking another shot at the market.

“It’s not in the works, but it’s on my mind,” Chen said in an interview at the Mobile World Congress conference.

A new tablet might introduce a fresh revenue stream for the Waterloo, Ontario-based company, which struggles with smartphone sales. At the same time, BlackBerry might not have enough faithful users to support a new tablet, especially since the tablet market saw its first year-over-year decline in shipments in the fourth quarter.

On the positive side, the market may be interested in a tablet geared towards work projects, to compete with Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 and the rumored iPad Pro.

“I want it to be different. I want it to be iconic,” Chen said. “Bringing a tablet out for a tablet’s sake, it’s not the right thing to do.”

BlackBerry has already announced the products it intends to release over the course of the year, including a yet-to-be-named slider BlackBerry, a touchscreen device called Leap, a Porsche edition BlackBerry, and a device with the company’s traditional keyboard.

Audi to Equip All 2016 Cars with AT&T LTE

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Audi has announced it will outfit all of its 2016 vehicles with LTE service provided by AT&T. This agreement is an extension of AT&T’s previous deal to provide LTE connectivity to all 2014 Audi A3 cars. AT&T will provide Audi drivers with the ability to add their vehicles to their Mobile Share data plan for a monthly access fee of $10.

Additionally, AT&T will be introducing the ability for cars to connect to its Digital Life home security and automation platform. This means a vehicle equipped with AT&T Drive will be able to embed Digital Life features, allowing the driver to control their home from their car dashboard.

AT&T is proving to be a leader in the connected car space, which can in part be attributed to its development of a global GSM-based SIM card. These global SIM cards can be programmed remotely to switch to different networks in different geographic locations, and can also be used to track shipments around the globe.

AT&T has struck deals with auto makers including Nissan, BMW, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Tesla, Volvo and GM’s operations in Europe.