Using Pinterest to Nail Crooks

Though best known as a virtual window-shopping site, Pinterest is actually helping to fight crime in a small Pennsylvania town.

The  Pottstown Mercury, the hometown paper of Pottstown, PA, has been posting mugshots of wanted criminals on Pinterest — resulting in a 58% increase in arrests:

Pottstown Police Capt. F. Richard Drumheller said his department has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people with outstanding warrants they’ve been able to capture thanks to the public.

“We have seen an increase in tips” from Mercury readers, he said. “Last time we checked, from when we first started (publicizing the outstanding warrants with The Mercury,) we have increased (the number of arrests) by about 58 percent. That’s pretty good.”

In addition to calling police with tips, locals used the Pinterest comment function to provide tips and background information about the fugitives.

The Poynter Institute, a journalism think-tank, points out that the  San Jose Mercury News and the Washington Examiner have also turned Pinterest into a local crime-fighting tool.

FCC to Buy Spectrum From TV Stations to Expand Wireless Bandwidth

The Federal Communications Commission has unveiled plans to buy back spectrum from broadcast TV stations to make more bandwidth available to mobile service providers.

The FCC’s plan is hold “incentive auctions” for the broadcast spectrum, starting with reverse auctions that invite broadcasters to submit the prices at which they would be willing to give up usage rights for their alloted frequencies.  The stations’ spectrum allocations will then be “repackaged” by the FCC into lower-frequency bands, freeing up more valuable UHF bandwidth for use by wireless service providers, who will then bid for the open spectrum in a regular auction.

The chief aim of the FCC’s reallocation plan is to free up desperately needed spectrum, as mandated by Congress earlier this year.  In its announcement, the agency pointed out that “today’s smartphones use 35 times more spectrum than traditional cell phones, and tablets use 121 times as much spectrum.”

But since the ultra-high-frequency bandwidth can be put to much more profitable use by the telecoms than the TV stations, the FCC also expects that the whole process will provide a tidy profit for U.S. taxpayers.  And of course, Congress has already decided how to spend it:

“Additionally, as Congress directed, certain proceeds from the incentive auction will be deposited in the Public Safety Trust Fund to fund a national first responder network, state and local public safety grants, public safety research, and national deficit reduction.”

Seniors Tweet in Smaller Numbers, But at Louder Political Volume

Seniors make up only a small sliver of Twitter’s user base, but their tweets hold far more political significance than those of the young whippersnappers who dominate the Twitterati.

More than half of all Americans age 65 and older are on the Internet, and though only 4% of wired seniors use Twitter, that group tweets most often about politics — and are by far the most likely demographic to vote — making their tweets both an important indicator and influencer of the opinions of likely voters.

A recent survey by Bluefin Labs of the social-media presence of 600 brands found AARP at #6, ahead of more youth-oriented brands like Subway and T-Mobile.  As Bluefin’s Crowdwire blog pointed out, the bump was all about politics.

“Speaking at an AARP conference in New Orleans, Romney running-mate Paul Ryan called for the repeal of the Obama health-care program, and was loudly booed. The social networks lit up, due partly to wide TV coverage of the story…

To make sense of the social response, we dug into the data. First, we looked at who made the comments, and found that among the groups commenting most frequently were people who watch network and cable news shows, and those who had posted previously about health-insurance – both pointing to an older demographic.

We then isolated comments specifically about Ryan’s Obamacare remarks and found that 43% were anti-Ryan, 22% were pro-Ryan, and 35% were neutral or unclassifiable.”

Crowdwire also pointed to the surge of social media commentary on a recent episode of 60 Minutes featuring interviews with both Obama and Romney.  That episode triggered 33,000 comments on social media — well over ten times the norm of 2,700.  While the average viewer age for the broadcast (58) was slightly younger than normal, Bluefin confirmed that the most active commenters were grandparents, showing that the spike in social media commentary was largely the work of seniors.

The opinions expressed did not bode well for the Romney campaign, with 54% criticizing the Republican nominee, and only 4% criticized Obama, with healthcare and taxes dominating to chatter.   Bluefin’s findings reflect Romney’s loss of support among seniors, which some analysts say could cost him the election.

AMD’s AppZone Brings Android Apps to PCs

Chipmaker AMD’s new AppZone partnership with BlueStacks will bring more than 500,00 Android apps to PC users running Windows 7 and the new Windows 8.

The BlueStacks software has been optimized to run on chips from AMD, a major investor in the startup.  The partnership positions BlueStacks to capitalize on next-generation touch-screen laptops running Windows 8, and may lead to agreements with PC makers to add BlueStacks to their preloaded software packages.

The arrangement should be a boon to AMD as well, BlueStacks CEO Rosen Sharma told VentureBeat:

“Our research has shown that for the youngest, newest customers, their first device is mobile.  Then they get a PC and expect it to have the apps their phone does. This deal positions AMD very well for this fast-growing group of young buyers.”

BlueStack brought Android apps to Macs earlier this year, with downloads far exceeding expectations despite a limited catalogue for the platform.

Pentagon: Wikileaks Founder Assange Is “Enemy of the State”

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is considered an “enemy of the United States,” according to declassified Pentagon documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

That designation, which includes the Wikileaks site itself, put them on par with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The Pentagon counter-intelligence documents revealing the designation related to an investigation of a British-based U.S. Air Force systems analyst accused of expressing support the site and attending pro-Assange demonstrations in London, where the Wikileaks founder remains holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy resisting extradition to Sweden.

The analyst was suspected of “communicating with the enemy,” a crime under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice which carries the death penalty.  The investigation was eventually closed when the Air Force failed to find evidence of an actual leak to the site, but legal writer Glenn Greenwald points out that the Wikileaks “Enemy of the State” designation makes any unauthorized disclosures to the site by military personnel a capital offense.

The revelation came the same day that Assange addressed a gathering of world leaders at the United Nations via satellite from Ecuador’s embassy in London, urging the Obama Administration to “cease its persecution” Wikileaks and its supporters:

“It is time for the United States to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks, to cease its persecution of our people and to cease its persecution of our alleged sources.  It is time for President Obama to do the right thing and join the forces of change — not in fine words, but in fine deeds.”

The event was hosted by Ecuador’s U.N. mission and not officially sponsored by the United Nations.

Rounded Corners Not Enough to Win This Apple Court Battle

Apple has been denied trademark protection for its ubiquitous music icon because it was judged too similar to a design owned by MySpace.

Just weeks after a jury confirmed Apple’s patent on rectangles with rounded corners, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board declared that Apple couldn’t trademark its orange musical-note icon on the grounds that people may confuse it with another design (with pointy corners!) that was already registered.

The earlier icon was registered in 2008 by iLike, a music-sharing service acquired by MySpace the following year.  Despite clear design innovations that included 3-D shading, a mottled background, a faux reflection and, of course, Apple’s patented rounded corners, a panel of trademark judges upheld an examiner’s determination that the two icons looked too much alike.

You can read the full decision at GigaOm, which helpfully highlighted the crucial  “likelihood of confusion” test:

In view of the facts that the marks are similar, the goods and services are related and are encountered by the same classes of consumers, we find that applicant’s double musical note and design for “computer software [..]” is likely to cause confusion with the registered mark comprising a double musical note and design [..] for listening to MP3’s and for sharing MP3’s and music playlists with others.

Some might question whether Apple’s icon and anything on MySpace are really “encountered by the same classes of consumers,” and Apple may well appeal the decision to a federal district court — but its lawyers had better hurry.  If this week’s snazzy relaunch of the redesigned social networking site catches on, enough music fans may actually return to MySpace to make the trademark panel’s decision pass the giggle test.

New Smartphone App Could Add Luxury Safety Features to Any Car

An experimental mobile app could help a Nexus make any car feel more like a Lexus by adding two high-end safety features now only available in luxury cars.

Developers at Dartmouth College used a Samsung Galaxy Nexus to test CarSafe, an Android app that can help keep drivers from in their lanes as well as monitor drivers for fatigue.

With the smartphone mounted on the windshield, the app uses the forward-facing camera to make sure the car stays between the lines on the road and maintains a safe distance from the car ahead.  Meanwhile, the screen-side camera monitors the driver, tracking head position, gaze direction and blink rate.  A drowsy or distracted driver triggers the phone to beep and flash a cup of coffee on the screen.

Don’t look for CarSafe on Google Play just yet though, as the developers caution that the app is not quite up to speed, so to speak.  It’s billed as “the first dual-camera application for smartphones,” and there may be a good reason for that: current phones can’t access both cameras at the same time.  So the developers had to make the app constantly switch back and forth between the cameras, and as a result it can only analyze scenes at eight frames per second, well below the frame rate necessary to be useful at highway speeds when the features are most needed.

Lead researcher Andrew Campbell told New Scientist that advances in smartphone technology will soon overcome this technical snag:

“But the next generation of phones will allow software to access both cameras simultaneously, removing that bottle neck,” predicts Campbell. “And with advent of quad core and 16 core phones in the future I would expect 20 to 30 fps [frames per second] on each camera.”