<![CDATA[NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth - Tech News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/tech http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC+5-KXAS+Logo+for+Google+News.png NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth http://www.nbcdfw.com en-us Sat, 20 Dec 2014 18:32:13 -0600 Sat, 20 Dec 2014 18:32:13 -0600 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Experts: WWIII Looks Like Sony Hack]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 08:03:12 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/N6P-SONY-KOREA-HACK-PKG---03282609.jpg

The term “cyber warfare” has been thrown around for years, with security experts wondering what the effects of a damaging cyber attack might look like. Now we know: a Hollywood studio left paralyzed, and the center of the tech world is wondering what's next.

As the billboards advertising Sony Pictures' "The Interview" were pulled down in Hollywood on Thursday, concerns about cyber terrorism shot up in Silicon Valley.

"World War III looks like this,” said Michelle Dennedy, Intel Security's chief privacy officer. She said technology is the new battlefield, and our gadgets are all potential targets.

"This is the wave of the future,” Dennedy said. “Bank robbers robbed banks because that's where the money was. Data is currency. Hackers are going for it because it's valuable."

What happened at Sony should, according to cyber security experts, be a warning to us all.

"This is the first time we've seen it at this scale,” said Truman National Security Project’s Mike McNerney.

The goal of hackers is not just disruption, it's fear, McNerney said. "This is different. The way they were able to combine this online attack that got them the attention they wanted, and then mix this with threat of physical violence, it's something we really haven't seen before."

But it’s likely something we'll see again, as hackers try to invade banks, retailers, anything with an easy to open virtual door.

"I think everyone needs to be worried about this," McNerney said, “whether it's an organization, government entity, or an individual.”



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Odd Google Searches That Trended in 2014]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 14:08:51 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/453920462.jpg

Google has released its 2014 list of its most common search requests. Many popular searches weren't surprising, like The World Cup, Robin Williams, and Disney's “Frozen.”

However, the search engine also revealed other searches that were also, somehow, popular this past year. People of the web turned to Google for odd info about dogs, beauty, diets, memes, fashion and famous selfies.

Take a look at searches that also trended in 2014: 



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Getting WIFI Throughout Your House]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 17:17:59 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/wifi1.jpg

We’re dependent on Wi-Fi to access the internet in different parts of our homes.

But too often service is sluggish or there are dead zones. Consumer Reports has advice to help improve Wi-Fi in your house.

Many people get internet service through their cable provider. The signal comes in through a modem that connects to a router. Then the signal is sent wirelessly through the house.

So what can go wrong? Plenty, but Consumer Reports says start with where your router is placed.

Router signals do not go through walls that easily, so the fewer walls, fewer closed doors, fewer floors the signal has to travel, the better your chances are of getting the signal covering your entire house.

So if you’re having trouble, try moving your router and modem to the middle of your home. Your service provider may be willing to re-run the cable where you need it.

Also, check your service plan to make sure you’re getting enough internet speed. For U.S. homes, 10 megabits per second is the average, but you’ll need 20 or more if you’re playing demanding games online or streaming a lot of high-def movies at once.

If you’re paying for enough speed from your service provider and you’re still not getting good speed in your house or you have some dead spots, then there is a good chance it could be your router, and a newer, faster router could actually help.

One to look for is the Netgear AC1900 Nighthawk for $185. Consumer Reports says it’s good for larger houses and will handle several devices that are using Wi-Fi simultaneously.

For far less, Consumer Reports also recommends the Netgear N750. It costs $90 but doesn’t use the latest 802.11ac technology for the absolute fastest speed.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website.
 



Photo Credit: Consumer Reports]]>
<![CDATA[Make Charity Donations Count]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 22:02:56 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dfw-generic-money-cash-02.jpg

For many, the holiday season is a time to give not only to friends and family but also to those in need.

In fact, 40 percent of charitable contributions are made in the last few weeks of the year.

Consumer Reports has found that some charities spend very little on the causes they promote. How can you determine whether a charity is worthy of your hard-earned dollars?

Another increasingly common way to give is buying from companies that donate part of the sales to charity. The downside—the company gets the tax deduction, not you. And it can be hard to determine how much money from the sales actually will go to the charity.

Consumer Reports says to do some homework before donating. Two reliable watchdog websites that are free—CharityNavigator.org, and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, at give.org—let you know how much money charities give to the services and programs they support, and how much goes for administrative costs and fundraising.

Some of your favorite charities might not be rated on those national sites because they’re too small or too local. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give to them. You just should do more research.

First step: Check out the charity’s website to see its mission and accomplishments. And consider volunteering first. It’s a great way to ask questions and get to know the charity from the inside.

Another way to go is to give through a nonprofit fundraising federation, such as United Way, that checks out the charities it represents before allowing them to participate.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Doorman" Keeps Online Orders Safe]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 02:42:56 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/1125-2014-Doorman.jpg

A San Francisco start-up wants to make sure you never miss a package again, or have one stolen off your doorstep. Doorman delivers boxes and envelopes to your door, when you are home.

“Shopping behavior online is changing dramatically,” said Co-Founder of Doorman Kapil Israni. “People are getting their toilet paper online. The problem is they're never home to get their package."

Doorman gives its customers an address to use when purchasing online. That package goes to the company’s warehouse, and customers are alerted when it arrives. The user can then respond with what time they’ll be home that night. One of the part-time contracted drivers then takes the package to your front door and texts you when they’re outside. Deliveries are made between 6 p.m. and midnight, seven days a week.

"This is our attempt to modernize the last broken piece of e-commerce,” said Co-Founder Zander Adell.

Packages arrive the same day they would if you ordered directly from a retailer. The cost is $4 per package, or $20 dollars a month. The hope, is you'll never miss a package again.

“There's nothing worse than getting a door tag. I'd rather get a parking ticket,” said customer Michele Mandell.

“If I'm not home, (other delivery companies) just return it. Then I have to take my car to the center and lose 3-4 hours,” said customer Loic Le Meur.

For now, Doorman is only available in San Francisco, but there are other options in the Bay Area.

Amazon has lockers you can ship packages to, and pick them up when you’re available.

If you ship through the Postal Service, you're urged to insure your package and make sure the box or envelope has to be signed for when it arrives. You can also track its progress online.

"One thing people do is have a trusted neighbor keep an eye out for their packages and say, 'hey, I'm expecting something, can you keep an eye out for it, and I'll do the same,” said USPS Spokesperson Augustine Ruiz.

The Postal Service announced its employees will begin delivering seven days a week through the holidays. USPS expects to deliver 12 percent more packages this holiday season than the same time last year. That equals more than 450 million packages.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[3-D Printing Gives Chance to Little Girl Born With Heart Defect ]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 08:31:49 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/195*120/11-24-14_Heart-Defect-Surgery-Hensel.JPG

Esther Perez was born with heart defects that could have taken her young life, but thanks to a series of breakthrough procedures at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the now-14-month-old little girl is thriving.

Using a series of conventional MRIs, 3-D MRIs and an incredible printer that reconstructed a model of the girl’s heart, doctors were able to plan her surgery, practice it and reduce her risks and increase her chances of survival.

That was the first miracle for her mother, Martha Perez, who found about her daughter's medical problem while she was still in the womb.

"I stop the pregnancy, or continue. Maybe the baby will be born for just five, 10 minutes, and then the baby maybe will be dying," she recalled, near tears.

Perez credits her faith with helping her to make it through the pregnancy, but when Esther was born, things looked bleak.

Her cardiologist said the baby just wasn’t getting enough oxygen to her body.

An early surgery provided a temporary fix, but as time went on it became clear a second, much more serious operation was needed.

Doctors decided the innovations could help, including creating a life-size model of Esther’s heart.

The paper-and-plastic model was an exact replica of Esther’s heart, so doctors could explore and strategize before the actual surgery.

"As soon as we opened the heart, it was exactly as I had seen before, so making the patch and doing the connections were quite straightforward," said Dr. Richard Kim, the cardiothoracic surgeon who operated on Esther.

Similar heart surgeries were done long before the 3-D technology was available, but doctors said it has helped increase the effectiveness and safety of similar operations.

Dr. Kim said Esther now stands a very good chance of having a healthy, normal life.

Perez said she’s grateful for the chance her daughter has been given.

"It’s a miracle," she said.

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<![CDATA[7 Tech Trends for 2015]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:34:08 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AP836878317132.jpg

Will 2015 be the year of wearable tech?

The long-awaited Apple Watch will be making its debut in early 2015 and consumers will be able to get their hands on newly available 3D printers to make food and collectibles. Smart home devices are also among the hot tech trends in the new year, experts say.

“It’s a world of synced devices that will become mainstream in 2015," said Stacy Glasgow, a Chicago-based consumer trends consultant for market research firm Mintel. "It’s no longer about startups or early adopters. We’re seeing a lot of big retailers giving consumers smart products and devices.”

Glasgow said that in Mintel’s research, the company found that 59 percent of U.S. consumers were interested in using an app or device to control their home. About 22 percent already owned a wearable device already. “We definitely see that number in a position to grow,” she said.

Eric Openshaw, vice chairman and U.S. technology, media and telecom leader for Deloitte based in San Francisco, said that the wearable technology market is exploding but is probably going to be more important for businesses rather than consumers.

“I think there are huge benefits for the industrial user,” he said.

Coye Cheshire, an associate professor for the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley, said most of the trends we’re seeing have to do with playing with user data.

“It’s called instrumenting the experience,” he said. “It’s all these apps, such as fitness apps or other metrics, capturing user data and returning it back to the consumer.” The hype is exciting, but he said society is not quite sure what it really wants to know. “The assumption is that if there’s more of this data and you turn it back to the people it will equal better experience, but it remains highly unknown if that’s the case.”

Here's a list of seven tech trends for 2015:

TellSpec

The TellSpec is a small spectroscope that uses a beam of infrared light to figure out the composition of food and help users determine exactly how many calories and grams of fat, protein or carbohydrates they are consuming just with a wave of the device. The TellSpec shoots the information to a smartphone (Android or iOS) where users can see not only the vital stats of the food, but also if it contains allergens like eggs or gluten. The company has been busy scanning foods so the spectroscope has a full database and can identify traces of ingredients, according to Fast Company.

Cheshire seemed interested but not optimistic about the scanner. “Will some people carry them around? There are a small amount of people who are responsible for almost all the uptick of all devices,” he said of the new adopters. But will it be popular with the mainstream – that’s another story.

Wearable Technology

The Apple Watch will likely be a must-have for those who want both a status symbol and a stylish timepiece (they come in different colors, from sensible stainless steel to elegant 18K rose gold). Other wearable tech, such as Google Glass, have already made their debut and caused the public to crave more gadgets like it. Samsung is launching a new platform, Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions (also dubbed SAMI), to capitalize on wearables. Expect to see more offerings from Microsoft, Motorola, Jawbone and others, including the Polo Tech Shirt which also offers biometric readings with a designer label.

Gartner Inc. predicts more wearable tech will come on the market because our society is becoming increasingly mobile and wants it available in more environments, including work. Cheshire said that cheaper sensors are making it possible. “This is the early stage of wearable technology and different companies are trying to throw things at the wall and see what sticks,” he said. "If were playing futurist, I wouldn’t bet on many of these things being around in a few years."

Smart Appliances and Smart Homes

“Virtually every large appliance is looking at the ‘Internet of Things,’ from sensor technology to smartphones to home networks,” Openshaw said of today's smart appliances and machines. Both Nest and Apple have devised ways to tell your house to turn on lights, adjust the thermostat or record TV programs via your smartphone, and you can expect to see more in 2015.

According to GigaOm, small startups are also joining the smart home movement by adding Bluetooth so users can control light bulbs, outlets or even receive pictures with their smartphone of who is knocking at your door. Expect all these apps to work with voice integration, so you will literally be talking to your smartphone to start your dryer or start preheating the oven.

Digitized Dining

We’re all familiar with making reservations online with apps such as OpenTable or finding food online via GrubHub, but now more restaurants are letting you order your food online. Already Pizza Hut offers that capability (and receives half of its online orders from mobile devices) as does Panda Express. Some Chili’s and Applebee’s provide tablets for customers to order, while McDonald’s and White Castle are also working on a touch-screen customizing kiosk, which may do away with a cashier altogether.

“I think the trend is rooted to an unprecedented expectation for on-demand convenience,” Glasgow said. “It’s this new immediacy in shopping and food service.” She said to expect more “blurring” between online and brick-and-mortar stores.

Paying With Your Phone

The idea of “click and pay” with a smartphone has been around for the last few years, but perhaps it needed Apple’s new iPhone 6 to bring the mobile payment system to the mainstream. Security professionals say it's a "significant improvement over using a credit card" and Apple said it "doesn't collect your purchase history, so we don't know what you bought, where you bought it or how much you paid for it."

But there are still some issues. According to Consumer Reports, a reporter used his wife’s credit card after scanning it into his iPhone without impunity or questions and in October, Bank of America apologized for charging customers twice for purchases they made using the system.

Cheshire said that digital payment isn't enough to the transaction more seamless. “Paying by your phone alone doesn’t make it efficient,” he said, “but if you also make an order and pay for it with the same phone it can be.”

Life360

It may sound a bit creepy, and your teenagers will hate it, but keeping tabs on your entire family at all times is now a reality with this free Life360 app.

“If I had an application for (my kids aged) 11 to 12 so I could know what they’re doing, I would be thrilled,” Openshaw said.

Parents will likely love the “Places” part of the app that is literally a map that shows everyone in the circle coming or going from certain spots and alerts users when members have left or have entered a specific area.

“I think the social implication is that we’re raising our kids to know they can’t be trusted or trust people in general,” Cheshire said. Glasgow disagreed, saying that it may calm parental anxieties. “If I have an application for (my kids aged) 11 to 12 to know what they’re doing, I would be thrilled,” Openshaw said.

3D Printers

How would you like to have a printer that can create a gun or a pizza? Apparently many people are interested. The shipments of 3D printers will double in 2015 and double again in 2016, according to Gartner Inc. Previously the domain of scientific labs or universities, 3D printers have captured the interest of the masses perhaps because it can reduce costs and create facsimiles almost instantly.

“We see another trend that consumers are finding they enjoy making things on their own and I think 3D printing facilitates that,” Glasgow said, mentioning the beauty of 3D printer Mink which can create custom-colored eye shadow or lipstick.

Consumers may also be interested in exploring cuisine with the Foodini, a 3D printer that creates your favorite foods from “sweet to savory” according to CNN. Lynette Kucsma, co-founder of Natural Machines which creates the Foodini, says a consumer version of its product will be out soon and retail for around $1,000.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Company Unveils Electronically-Powered Skates]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 08:18:37 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/1121-2014-RocketSkates.jpg

Forget walking or rollerblading — how about rocket skating?

California-based company Acton has developed electronically-powered skates that can propel the wearer up to 12 miles per hour — no pushing required.

Founders said the idea was inspired by "Iron Man," "Inspector Gadget" and "The Jetsons."

"The idea of just being able to slide around the urban environment is very exciting," said Peter Treadway, co-founder of Acton. "It's kind of like a magic carpet for your feet."

The skates were released this week and sell for $500 a pair.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[FB Shuttle Drivers “Like” Union Bid]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 06:11:56 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/fb16.jpg

Shuttle bus drivers who take Facebook employees to and from Silicon Valley overwhelmingly gave the "thumbs up" to forming a union on Wednesday, after they had complained publicly for months about their low pay, split shifts and health insurance benefits.

Rome Aloise, secretary for the Teamsters Local 853 in San Leandro, said the vote was 43 in favor of unionizing and 28 opposed. A total of 16 of the 87 drivers who work for Loop Transportation - the shuttle company contracted to drive Facebook employees, did not vote.

"This will now give these drivers at Facebook, and most probably the drivers for all of the companies that use this type of service a chance at a piece of the pie," Aloise said. "This makes it possible for those that make Facebook successful to get to work comfortably, safely and in a timely fashion.  Hopefully the tech companies will step up and pay the "freight" so to speak"

The National Labor Board still needs to certify the election, and then bargaining can begin with Loop for a first-time contract.

In a statement, Loop CEO Jeff Leonoudakis said that the company didn't feel "our drivers' interests are best served by union representation."

But, he added: "Our drivers have spoken and we will now begin the negotiation process."

Leonoudakis reiterated that the company's drivers earn between $17 and $25 an hour and get full medical benefits valued at up to $714 per month per employee. One of the drivers' complaints is over their split shifts. They pick up Facebook employees about 6 a.m. and have to take them home sometimes 14 or 15 hours later - and are only getting paid for an eight-hour shift.

Leonoudakis said that the drivers can sleep at the Loop Transportation yard, or eat for free at Facebook's campus.

Facebook officials has not formally commented on the labor strife, indicating that the fight is not with their tech company, but with a third party contractor.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[Consumer Reports: Best Cell Phone Services]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 06:45:54 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/cell-data.jpg

The vast majority of people get their cell phone service from one of the four major wireless providers — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. But in Consumer Reports’ latest ratings, based on a survey of 63,000 of its subscribers, a new service called Ting scored much higher.

Ting bills for actual voice, text and data usage rather than charging a flat rate. It uses the Sprint network and is only compatible with Sprint phones and tablets. Right now that includes the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy SIII.

Two other smaller providers are also top-rated in the Consumer Reports survey. Consumer Cellular scored better than all the big providers, while Republic Wireless rated the highest for prepaid service.

Those three companies — Ting, Consumer Cellular and Republic — were the only carriers in the Consumer Reports’ survey to receive the highest marks for value for the money. The lowest ratings for value among contract plans went to AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

Sprint also did worse in Consumer Reports’ survey for phone support, and the lack of knowledge and ability to resolve issues.

In response to Consumer Reports' survey, Sprint said the results are disappointing and it is committed to offering customers the best value in wireless. Verizon said it will continue to work to demonstrate value by providing excellent customer experiences. And AT&T said customer satisfaction is the reason fewer people are switching away from AT&T.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Google "Trekkers" Maps Hiking Trail]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 07:23:54 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/1118-2014-GoogleTrekker1.jpg

Google "trekkers" are helping you map out your next hiking trip and get a feel for being on the trail.

The backpack-type trekker carries 15 cameras and records the hiker's every move with the same technology used in Google Earth and Google Maps.

"The trekker takes an image as the person walks -- every two and a half seconds," said Deanna Yick, a Google Street View manager. "That enables us to get a picture of what a place is like and a feel for being there."

Hannah Lonergan recently went on a hike using a Google trekker.

"It's a lot heavier, you have an antenna, you have to watch out for low-hanging branches," Lonergan said when asked how a trekker compares to a regular camping backpack. She added that the trekker weights about 60 pounds.

The City of Monterey is working with Google to get trekkers on local trails.

"We feel like this is a great way to showcase Monterey County," said Tammy Blount, Monterey City Convention Bureau CEO.

Google officials said trekkers can handle privacy concerns on the spot. For example, if someone is hiking on the trial and doesn't want to be in the picture, the hiker can pause the camera and make sure the hiker's anonymity is preserved.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Tony Hawk Rides Hoverboard]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 07:28:20 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2014-11-17+at+3.26.35+PM.png

The hoverboard is reality, and Tony Hawk has taken a spin on it.

The pro skateboarder tested the $10,000 prototype Hendo Hoverboard after husband and wife Greg and Jill Henderson launched a Kickstarter to fund it. 

In the video, Hawk performs a few tricks on the board, which hovers an inch off the ground and uses magnets, though he also ends up falling several times.

Hawk had caught attention for another hoverboard video earlier this year — a fake video made by Funny or Die that featured the skateboarder, musician Moby and others riding boards high into the sky, in a prank for which Hawk eventually apologized.  


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<![CDATA[Fire Hazard Forces Recall of Tankless Water Heaters]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 06:35:14 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/hartford+fire+truck+generic.jpg

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled 29,000 tankless water heaters because of a threat of overheating and fire.

The recall involves all models of the single and dual Coaire and Quietside Brand Tankless Gas Water Heaters.

According to the CSPC, they are manufactured by Daesung Celtic Enersys and distributed by Challenger Supply Holdings.

The heaters were sold between July 2008-August 2014

There are 40 reports of units overheating, including two fires and four incidents where burns were left on the wall where the tanks were mounted.

If you own the unit, you're asked to stop using it and call Challenger Supply Holdings at 800.729.6118.

Click on this sentence for a link to the CPSC recall.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Great Tech Toys]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 17:39:07 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/CR+Tech+Toys+111014.jpg

Electronic toys are a favorite gift. But don’t think that children have to just sit glued to a screen. Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine found four great tech toys that are loaded with creativity and will really engage the young ones on your list.

The $40 Leapfrog Leapband features “pets” that give kids activity challenges. It gets them up and moving, really active and engaged.

Crayola’s Virtual Design Pro kit is also $40. It has a colorful array of crayons, markers and stencils and a book full of car or dress designs. When you scan your drawings into a phone or tablet they animate. Models walk the runway and cars race through an obstacle course.

Another crafty device extrudes a thin stream of plastic that dries almost immediately so teens can turn their drawings into 3-D creations. The $100 3Doodler comes with 10 colors. Extra color packs are $10 each.

The $50 kit from MaKey MaKey is loaded with fun. The wired clips connect to a little circuit board and turn anything that conducts a current — everything from cucumber slices to bananas — into computer keys that play music.


Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website.



Photo Credit: Consumer Reports]]>
<![CDATA[Robot Technology Helps Diagnose, Treat Stroke Patients]]> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 17:02:42 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/robot+skype.jpg Doctors in North Texas say high-tech machines are helping to save lives. At Baylor Irving, a patient describes her experience of getting diagnosed with a stroke using the robotic device. Physicians at Baylor say early detection is also key, and urge anyone experiencing stroke-like symptoms to get to a hospital as soon as possible.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Best Places to Buy Electronics]]> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 17:15:35 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/CR+Electronics+110314.jpg

From tablets to TVs to laptop computers, electronics are likely to be the hottest gifts this holiday season. Consumer Reports' recent survey covering more than 42,000 electronics purchases can steer you to the best places to buy.

The survey found that people who shop for electronics online are happier with their experience than those who shop in the stores, and they’re more likely to say they would do it again.

Bhphotovideo.com gets top marks for service, selection, and price. And shoppers say the checkout process is easy. Crutchfield, Amazon, and Newegg are also standouts for online shopping. Even so, the Consumer Reports survey found that most people still shop with their feet. Even younger shoppers—those 40 and younger—are more likely to do their buying at a store.

Apple shoppers give the retailer top marks for quality and customer service, but they are not happy about the prices. GameStop customers aren’t pleased with the prices, either. At Costco, shoppers like the price but not the selection. Walmart also gets thumbs-down for selection, along with customer service.

Whether you shop in a store or online, the survey found that it pays to bargain. Walk-in shoppers who simply ask for a lower price get one more than half the time.

Consumer Reports says TV shoppers are particularly successful at bargaining. The survey found that almost 70 percent of those who asked for a better deal on a television got one. Their savings averaged close to $100.


Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website.



Photo Credit: Consumer Reports]]>
<![CDATA[Rocket Launch Aborted Over Boat Just Before Blast-Off]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 19:59:54 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/15011952803_64c309615d_o.jpg

The planned launch of a rocket from a NASA launchpad in Virginia was aborted less than 10 minutes before blast-off Monday night, after a sailboat wound up in the restricted launch range area.

Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket , which will carry a capsule stuffed with space gear and science experiments to astronauts at the International Space Station, is now set to launch Tuesday evening.

The rocket had been supposed to launch its space gear-stuffed Cygnus capsule into space at 6:45 p.m. ET on Monday, en route to the International Space Station, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's eastern shore, becoming the biggest rocket to launch from the site.

But although the Monday mission was aborted, skygazers in the Washington, D.C., area were still in for quite a sight, as the International Space Station itself was passing overhead just a few minutes after the rocket had been slated to launch.

Orbital has explained when watchers will be able to see the rocket soar into view with a handy map, showing how many seconds after blast-off they should expect to spot it. 

If you're unsure how to spot a rocket blasting off, the Washington Post advises looking for a glowing trail of light that makes an arc in the sky. Orbital released diagrams of the expected view from major sites and cities on its website.

The launch now slated for Tuesday will kick off the third in a series of eight planned Orbital delivery missions to ferry crucial equipment and food to astronauts.

This one will also carry a trove of science experiments — including the Meteor, the first space-based system to observe meteors, and the Drain Brain, a special neck collar for astronauts to determine how their blood flows down to their hearts without gravity, Discovery News reported. The results could help researchers develop countermeasures for headaches in space, an ISS scientist told Discovery.



Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)
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<![CDATA[Company Paid Workers $1.21 An Hour]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:47:49 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/1022-2014-EFI.jpg

A Bay Area tech company has been slapped with a fine and ordered to pay thousands of dollars in back wages after a United States Department of Labor investigation revealed the company paid workers $1.21 an hour.

The Labor Department said about eight employees of Fremont-based Electronics For Imaging were flown in from India and worked 120-hour weeks to help with the installation of computers at the company's headquarters. The employees were paid their regular hourly wage in Indian rupees, which translated to $1.21.

EFI, which posted third-quarter revenue of nearly $200 million, released the following statement on Thursday: "During this process we unintentionally overlooked laws that require even foreign employees to be paid based on local US standards."

Last year, another company, Bloom Energy in Sunnyvale, faced similar charges and was fined for underpaying employees from Mexico an hourly wage of $2.66.

Federal officials said both cases are particularly egregious, given the booming labor market and the wealth in Silicon Valley.

"It is certainly outrageous and unacceptable for employers here in Silicon Valley to bring workers and pay less than the minimum wage," said Alberto Raymond, an assistant district director for the United States Department of Labor.

EFI has been ordered to pay $40,000 in back wages to the employees. In addition, the company was hit with a $3,500 fine.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[OLED-TV, the Next Big Thing]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:50:45 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/CR+OLED+TV+101914.jpg

The latest in television technology is called OLED. It stands for organic light-emitting diodes. Organic refers to the layer of carbon film, which emits light when hit with an electric current.

The head of Consumer Reports television testing says it’s the best display technology out there, combining the best features of plasmas and LCDs. It has the deep black levels and unlimited viewing angles of top plasmas. At the same time it delivers on the power efficiency, super-thin bezel design and also the bright picture of LCD TVs.

OLED TVs started out very expensive. The first one that Consumer Reports tested last year was $10,000. Others were even more. But prices are coming down. The LG that’s now in Consumer Reports’ lab is $3,500.

Consumer Reports TV experts say they expect to see continued improvements in OLED technology, more manufacturers to enter the OLED TV business in the next year or so, and prices to continue to fall.

Also coming soon, the marriage of OLED and ultra high-definition television, which Consumer Reports expects will make a great picture even better. LG plans to start selling ultra high-def OLED sets this fall. But at this point, prices are astronomical. LG’s 65-inch set costs $10,000, and its 77-inch set will be $25,000.

 

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website.



Photo Credit: Consumer Reports]]>
<![CDATA[Apple Event: New iPads Announced]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:11:17 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/new-ipad-AP903945536056_0.jpg Check out the newest products and programs tech giant Apple announced on Oct. 16, 2014.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Report Links GoPro to Brain Injury]]> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 18:12:17 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AP886669197394.jpg

The French commentator whose reported remarks had sparked reports that a GoPro camera may have played a role in Formula 1 racing legend Michael Schumacher's brain injury is now urging everyone to "stop all speculation."

Schumacher, 45, has been immobile and unable to speak after he fell and hit a rock in a skiing accident last year while he was wearing a GoPro camera mounted on his helmet.

European news outlets had reported that racing commentator Jean-Louis Moncet told Europe 1 radio that Schumacher's son Mick told him the placement of the camera contributed to the brain injury — but Moncet denied that Tuesday on Twitter.

"The problem for Michael was not the hit, but the mounting of the GoPro camera that he had on his helmet that injured his brain," Eurosport had earlier quoted Moncet as having said.

But Moncet appeared to contradict that suggestion in a tweet Tuesday.
"STOP ALL SPÉCULATION," he tweeted. "Mick could not say something about camera or injury of Michael because we did not speak together."
Following the initial report linking the GoPro to Schumacher's injury, shares of the Bay Area-based company plummeted, losing as much as 10 percent in trading Monday, Business Insider reported.

A GoPro spokesman declined to comment on the report linking the camera to Schumacher's injury but said the company was monitoring the situation closely.

Schumacher emerged from a medically-induced coma in June but remains in serious condition.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Teens Develop Brain-Teaser App]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 07:13:56 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/216*120/impossible+rush+app.jpg

Fifteen-year-old Austin Valleskey doesn't have his drivers license yet...but he already has a worldwide successful app.

A few months ago the suburban Chicago teen was contacted about an idea for an app by Australian Ben Pasternack, who is also 15.

"I thought it was cool," said the Wheaton Academy sophomore. "He asked if I wanted to make it into a game. I said sure, it's a Saturday, I've got a couple of hours."

And a few hours is all it took for Valleskey to create a prototype for Impossible Rush- a brain-teaser game.

"We didn't think much of it. We just wanted people to have fun with it," Valleskey said.

And people did.

The pair contacted a marketer who agreed to buy the app and the game's popularity skyrocketed.

With over 500,000 downloads at its peak, the app was ranked 16th in the U.S., 7th in Sweden and 18th in Australia, according to Business Insider.

Valleskey said he was in disbelief.

"It passed up Skype, Tinder, Netflix, all of these huge companies. It was crazy cool to me!" the teen told NBC Chicago Thursday. "It's a great thrill."

The young teen says he taught himself computer programming just one year ago during a road trip to Florida.

His parents shared his latest excitement.

"It's been just so much fun to see the success he's had with it," said Michael Valleskey. "He's learning so much going through this process."

Valleskey says he's already working on developing another app.

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<![CDATA[Tesla to End Speculation Over "The D"]]> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 13:12:54 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/209*120/10-09-2014-tesla-model-s-470486031.jpg

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is expected to make an announcement Thursday night that should clear up a week of speculation that put "the D" in dramatic and a bump in the electric carmaker's stock price.

The electric car manufacturer appears poised to unveil a new model after Musk's tweet last week that indicated plans to "unveil the D and something else." The tweet featured a graphic with Thursday's date and a partially opened garage door that masked all but the menacing front end of a vehicle with Tesla's logo and signature headlights.

In the days after Musk's mysterious tweet, Tesla's stock price climbed about 6 percent. The stock took a slight dip Wednesday before rising again Thursday ahead of the announcement.

Tesla is likely adding another member to its family of vehicles, which includes the Model S luxury sedan. The company has plans for a Model X SUV and mass-market model called the Model 3.

Thursday's announcement might involve an all-wheel drive vehicle, which would fit nicely into the carmaker's lineup and allow Tesla to match offerings from similarly priced competitors. Electric vehicles allow engineers more flexibility than a traditional front-, rear- or mid-engine vehicle when it comes to how power is distributed to each wheel. For example, instead of transferring power from one engine to four wheels, an electric powertrain might use two electric motors for the front and back wheels or even four electric motors dedicated to each wheel.

But the guesses don't stop there.

A Tesla with greater range or higher level of driver assistance technology, such as lane assist or collision-avoidance braking, are some of the possibilities.

A self-driving vehicle or something that's not a car at all have all been mentioned in response to last week's tweet.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[College Bans App Over Bullying]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 09:54:05 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/Yik+Yak+Norwich+University.jpg

Concerns over cyberbullying led Vermont's Norwich University to block users of the school's servers from accessing a social media app.

The app, Yik Yak, allows users to post anonymous blurbs, including rants, gossip, or praise for the best classes or parties. Those messages are visible to other users in close proximity.

"People are talking smack to other people; talking smack about the school and groups on campus and stuff," said student Michael Muradyan, describing content he has seen on Yik Yak at Norwich.

In a prepared statement, Norwich said the policy decision was made effective this past weekend.

"This action was taken in an effort to protect Norwich students and to demonstrate that bullying in any form is not tolerated at Norwich University," the statement read.

Norwich computer systems professor Mich Kabay said that message about cyberbullying is "something we need to get across in society."

Kabay, whose courses including one on cybercrime, told New England Cable News he knows cyberbullying can have extremely serious consequences for victims, including some around the nation who have taken their own lives.

"The more individuals and organizations that take a stand and say, 'No, that's wrong. I don't like that. That's ugly; we don't do that,' then we will see change across generations," Kabay predicted.

Muradyan pointed out to NECN that at Norwich, students can still access Yik Yak through their phones' own data plans-- separate from the school's servers.

"Kids are still finding a way around it," he said.

While there have been no official reports of criminal behavior at Norwich using the app, the school is launching an internal campus investigation into the issues of cyberbullying and the use of Yik Yak. The police are not involved in that internal campus investigation, which is being led by the school's vice president of student life and enrollment management, according to the statement.

In response to an NECN inquiry about its policy regarding alleged instances of cyberbullying, Yik Yak released a statement saying it "recognizes that as with any social app or network today, there is the likelihood for misuse from a small group of users.. It said it has "geo-fenced almost all primary and secondary schools and turned the app to 17+ in stores to ensure the user base is age appropriate and parents can easily block the app on their children's phones."

"Additionally, the app monitors conversations and posts, and any negative or harmful behavior can result in the respective user being blocked, or altogether banned from future use," the statement added. "Yik Yak also finds that as more users sign up and start using the app, communities begin to self-regulate in a positive way."

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