Nothing makes you feel like more of a failure at life faster than losing or misplacing a cellphone, especially in an age where more and more of us opt to use our mobile handsets as the sole means of telecommunications in our households. Android handset owners can turn to apps like Find My Phone to keep track of the device’s whereabouts. The same goes for iPhone users and Find My iPhone. But what if you’re rocking a lowly feature phone or a barebones handset that does nothing else but you know, be a phone? You can try retracing your steps in order to find the misplaced device, drop a wad of cash on a new handset, or call it using Where’s My Cellphone, our Cool Site of the Week.
Google certainly does not need anymore bad publicity for its Street View product after lat year’s Wi-Fi data scandal. But, here we have the French data protection authority Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) claiming that Google’s Street View cars slurped up the MAC addresses of mobile devices and laptops.
Don't pay any attention to all that banter about Foursquare being driven out of business by Facebook Places. The location check-in service just released some numbers indicating they saw astonishing growth of 3400% in 2010. It's not just that Foursquare is that great, but that all the talk about Facebook Places drove consumers to investigate location-based service that much more. Some of them eventually landed on Foursquare.
Along with the big headline, Foursquare created a great infographic. Check it out at the link above. Some of the more interesting aggregated data include the total number of check-ins, 381,576,305. The top eating establishment, Union Square Green Market. And in case you were wondering, the top state for gym check-ins was California.
At 6 million users strong, Foursquare is forging ahead in the face of the Facebook behemoth. Do they stand a chance in the long run?
According to All Things D, T-Mobile USA is preparing to launch a new app and service that seeks to make driving safer for customers. The Drive Smart Plus app will manage the user's phone automatically in order to turn off many voice and SMS features. If a Bluetooth device is attached, the app can send calls there by default. SMS messages will be auto-replied to with a notice that the user is driving. The key here is the automatic part. Drive Smart Plus will turn itself on when it believes the user is driving.
The apps and service will be opt-in, and at first it will only be available on the LG Optimus T, but other phones are in the works. It will cost subscribers $4.99 per month for the Drive Safe Plus service, but a free Drive Plus Basic app will be available. The key difference is that users must manually activate the blocking features of the basic app.
The Drive Safe initiative is based on technology from Location Labs. We imagine it tracks GPS much as Google Latitude does, and takes note of acceleration on roads to switch on the app. That means GPS-related battery use, and another thing to run in the background. Will users want to deal with the possible issues, and fees? Let us know if you'd be in.
Google is moving into location-based services in a big way. A part of that process is enabling users to better control their search results based on location. Starting today, a new option is being rolled out to Google's search page. In the left hand options mane, users can now change their location to get filtered results based on that location.
You might want to change this because it's just wrong, which does happen from time to time. But maybe you need results for a location you are going to be later. Whatever the case, you can just click the Change Location option and type the city you would like to set. This ability existed before, but ut was buried in the customizations menu.
The rollout will probably take some time to complete, but keep an eye out. Theoretically, this feature should enable users to get better local search results.
The lawsuits sure have been flying Google's way as of late. Most recently, location tracking service Skyhook has gotten into the fray. Skyhook is claiming that Google's location mapping business is competing unfairly with that of Skyhook, and that Google is infringing Skyhook's patents.
The first suit relates to the search giant's supposed anti-competitive behavior. According to legal documents, Google used their market position to encourage handset makers to stop using Skyhook services. This caused contracts to be cancelled and cost Skyhook millions. The second suit claims that Google's attempts to map Wi-Fi access points is using Skyhook technology.
Google has not been served any papers as of yet, so they have not issued a statement. But we can imagine they'll probably call it baseless, then start the legal machine and send it after Skyhook.
The internet at large tends to childe us all every few months about how much information people are sharing online. Sites like the now defunct Please Rob Me tried to bring the whole problem into focus by aggregating social networking posts wherein people said they were not at home. Sure, we all told ourselves this was no big deal. It's not like thieves are cruising Facebook looking for clues on when to rob you. As it turns out, at least some of them are. Police are reporting that three recently apprehended accused burglars were using Facebook to target empty homes.
The accused individuals were found to be in possession of $100,000-200,000 in stolen property. Police Capt. Ron Dickerson said in a statement, "We know for a fact that some of these players, some of these criminals, were looking on these sites and identifying their targets through these social networking sites." When you think about it, many people have hundreds of Facebook friends, many of which they know only in passing. Who's to say none of them are an unscrupulous lot?
The suspects were caught when they were seen lighting off a large quantity of fireworks stolen from one of the burgled homes. Does this incident give you pause about that you say on Facebook? Have you ever posted something you feel gave away too much information?
This week’s Freeware Files come courtesy of podcast aficionado (and mother of the epic dream date winner from podcast #36) R. Ellen Ferare. Or, rather, you can thank her for the idea. We got to talking this past weekend and she noted that she’s been having trouble finding a legitimate way to search through her desktop for this, that, and the other. Obviously, Windows’ built-in search functionality just isn’t cutting it—and I don’t blame her for thinking so. It’s slow, it’s bloated, and I’ve personally found that it just doesn’t quite get the job done compared to other applications out there.
“Other applications,” of course, is just a code phrase for what’s really on everyone’s minds: Google Desktop. But it would sure be boring to just write 75 words saying, “Don’t use Windows Search; Use Google Desktop. Eat a cupcake.” There’s more to life than what Google bestows. And, in fact, you might have legitimate privacy or performance concerns when using Google’s great—but not deal-breaking—search utility. For example I hate that the service only indexes your drive when your system is idle. That doesn’t do me a lot of good if I need to quickly search through new contents I’ve added to a particular location.
So, grievances aside, what does one do if one doesn’t want to use Windows built-in search tools or Google Desktop to sift through one’s computer for information? Solution: Try out one of the five freeware apps buried below the jump. They vary in format and features, but all are designed to fix some aspect of system searching that, right now, just isn’t being fulfilled by the two big aforementioned apps.
To figure out what time it is in a location-that-isn't-yours, you usually have to click through a series of menus in Microsoft Windows' Date and Time screen. And once you're there, you aren't given a very elegant way to select your time zone of choice--heck, Windows 7 doesn't even give you the pretty flat map of the world anymore. You have to pick your time zone, rather boringly, from a small drop-down menu of locations and hour offsets.
Listen up, Windows 7 aficionados: This one's for you. You've no doubt noticed your operating system's lack of location-based functionality. Unlike Apple's competing OSX, which can triangulate your system's position based on the geographical locations of nearby WiFi hotspots, you can't really... well. You can't do any of that on Microsoft's platform. While you might not need to know exactly where your desktop is (hint: your dwelling), it would sure be nice to have this feature for a more mobile system.
And that's not even in the, "I'm lost in the wilderness and I see a bear help" sense. Wouldn't it be great to automatically have the weather displayed for your current location on your Windows sidebar? If you use Twitter (and yes, readers, I realize you hate Twitter), you could just as easily pull up a listing of messages centered around your particular location: "I just ate a great meal here," or "@bear2 There is a silly human wandering around here; I will eat him," et cetera.
Well, Microsoft hasn't come to your rescue on this one--a third-party developer has created an free application that allows you tap into the wonders of geolocation all by your lonesome. Go fetch your laptop from the other room, then click the jump!