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51

Chromecast, Google's $35 little TV streaming device, keeps learning new tricks. Here's a good one that will let you play videos from an Android phone or tablet on your television.

Most people know Chromecast because it lets you easily stream Netflix, YouTube and other video services to your TV using your phone as a remote control. With a little help from a new Chromecast plugin for the popular ES File Explorer File Manager app,

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ream-local-video-from-your-android-to-your-chr-1654907042">reports Gizmodo, it can also send videos stored on your Android gadget to your big flat screen TV. 

ES File Explorer isn't the first app to offer this functionality, but it does look like one of the best. I took it for a spin and was impressed with the results. With other apps, I've seen a lot of fitful stutters and stops, or dropped connections. This one held its connection well for videos as well as songs. 

The ES File Explorer app itself is already a pretty handy file manager for Android devices, one that puts the folder structure of your phone and its memory card, if you have one, on view. Now with the ES Chromecast plugin, the combination makes easy and stable work of sending videos, photos and music to the TV. 

Here's how: 

  • To start, download the ES File Explorer app here. (It's free.) 
  • Open a video, picture or song inside the app.
  • Tap the “play” icon at the top right. (It looks like a triangle set inside a phone.) It will tell you to give you the option to download the ES Chromecast plugin.
  • Once you’ve done that, head back to the app.
  • Now touch the icon with the three dots in the upper right, and pick your Chromecast from the drop down menu.
  • You may have to tap the “play” icon beside it again.

Now, when you want to switch between playing the file on the mobile device or on the Chromecast, just touch the “play” icon. You control pausing and skipping from your phone or tablet. The stream doesn’t just work for video either. Local casting of songs and photos work from your Android gadget too.

In my test, the screen flickered for a moment, then the casting action kicked in like a champ. The whole process, including download, took seconds. 

Chromecast wasn’t actually intended to run off a local network for this type of direct streaming from gadgets, so it's a nice surprise to see an app that makes it work so well. 

Given that the new Nexus Player essentially has a Chromecast stuffed inside, third-party apps like this can give Google’s growing family of TV offerings some intriguing new uses beyond binge-watching. 

All photos by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite



53
Facebook

Facebook complained that the federal Drug Enforcement Agency committed a “serious breach of Facebook’s terms and policies” when it set up a fake Facebook account and impersonated a criminal suspect in order to communicate with other criminals, the company wrote in a letter

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uzzfeed.com/chrishamby/facebook-rebukes-dea-for-impersonating-woman-online#2dcjnsf"> to the DEA on Friday.

See also: The Feds Think It’s OK To Impersonate You On Facebook

The letter is a response to a lawsuit filed by Sondra Arquiett who was arrested in 2010 following a joint investigation with the Drug Enforcement Agency and other law enforcement agencies. Officers seized her phone and subsequently set up a Facebook account using photos that were on her mobile device, without Arquiett’s knowledge or consent, in an attempt to correspond with other criminals.

The DEA justified its breach of privacy by claiming the Facebook profile was used for a “legitimate law enforcement purpose” and that Arquiett gave the agency implicit consent to access the information on her device to aid in further investigations.

Facebook does not think the DEA's excuses are justifiable. In a letter to DEA administrator Michele Leonhart, first reported by BuzzFeed, Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s chief security officer, said the company was "deeply troubled by the DEA's claims and legal position."

Most fundamentally, the DEA’s actions threaten the integrity of our community. Facebook strives to maintain a safe, trusted environment where people can engage in authentic interactions with people they know and meet in real life. Using Facebook to impersonate others abuses that trust and makes people feel less safe and secure when using our service.

Facebook requires everyone to use their "real names," or names and identities that can be verified using identification like drivers licences or student IDs. The company recently found itself in hot water over its real names policy when a number of drag queens discovered they had been kicked out of their accounts for using stage names.

Facebook eventually acquiesced, and allowed those individuals to use their stage names, but reiterated that the policy is in place to protect people from harm, and that it's against Facebook's policy to create fake accounts using fake names.

See also: Facebook Ads Are About To Start Following You Everywhere

Law enforcement agencies are subject to the same rules as any other user, and Facebook quickly disabled the Arquiett account created by the DEA.

"Facebook has long made clear that law enforcement authorities are subject to these policies," Sullivan wrote, "Facebook asks that the DEA immediately confirm that it has ceased all activities on Facebook that involve the impersonation of others or that otherwise violate our terms and policies."

Photo courtesy of Marco Paköeningrat on Flickr



20

Many people seem pretty happy with iOS 8, Apple's latest operating system for iPhones and iPads. But not everyone is. If you've found yourself stuck with an older phone that isn't working as fast as you'd like, or have some other objection to any of the changes iOS 8 has wrought, you still have the option to go back.

For no

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w, at least.

See also: 5 Common iOS 8 Complaints And How To Address Them

The problem is that before long—and outside of Apple, no one knows how long—Apple will stop digitally signing iOS 7.1.2, which will make it impossible to restore it on your iDevice from Apple's servers. Traditionally, this hasn't taken much longer than a week or two. When it released iOS 7, Apple waited two weeks to stop signing earlier versions of iOS; the wait was just one week after iOS 6 launched.

To see if Apple has officially stopped signing iOS 7, check out this page and look for your device to make sure you're still eligible to downgrade. If the line for your device shows a green "Yes," you're good to go. (If not, you're largely out of luck.)

How To Downgrade

First, if you're planning on restoring your apps and data to the phone once you downgrade, you should make sure you have a valid backup made while you were on iOS 7. Once you downgrade, you won't be able to restore your phone from an iOS 8 backup.

Next, you’ll need a copy of the most recent iOS 7.1.2 firmware download, whose filename will end in the letters "ipsw." It may already be on your computer as a result of your last update; its name will vary depending on your device, but it will include the numbers 7.1.2. (you can search for it using Spotlight on a Mac or the Windows search function). 

If that fails, or if you just want to save time, you can download it online—for instance, by using these download links from Redmond Pie. Make sure to get the right IPSW files for your device; they're specific to iPhone/iPad/iPod models and their wireless radios.

Once you’ve done that, disable the "Find My iPhone" function (go to Settings->iCloud->Find My iPhone), as it will TKTK. Then simply connect your phone to your computer and open iTunes.

While in iTunes, click on “Summary,” and then, while holding down the option key on a Mac or shift on Windows, left-click on “Restore.” Select the iOS 7.1.2 IPSW file, and iTunes should do the rest. Remember: To get your apps and data back, you'll need to restore using your most recent backup from iOS 7.

If that doesn’t work, and you're sure Apple is still signing iOS 7, Macworld has a detailed fix for upgrading by putting your phone in Recovery Mode. You should be able to option-click "Restore" and select iOS 7.1.2 this way, too.

But act fast, because supplies may be limited.

Lead photo by Dan Rowinski for ReadWrite



16

YouTube achieved peak troll this week when PewDiePie, video gamer star of the video-sharing community's most popular channel ever, disabled comments, cutting off onsite communication with his more-than 30 million subscribers. 

In a video titled "Goodbye Forever Comments," PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, addresses his fans, whom he affectionately calls "bros," and explains that communicating with his fans in the YouTube comments system is almost impossible because of the overwhelming amount of spam and trolli

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ng:

"It's been bothering me for so long now, I've been trying to find solutions to it. I was hoping that it would get better, I was hoping YouTube would try and figure a way out, but it doesn't seem like it. I'm just sick of it, so I'm going to turn off the comments forever, they're not coming back. I wouldn't say that we lose something, I would say we're taking the next step in the right direction, because it's been going on for too long, these comments being shit."

For the uninitiated, YouTube comments have long been a miserable cesspool of near-illiterate insults, obscenities and spam. There was never a time I've scrolled down to read comments on a YouTube video (whatever video it may be) and thought to myself, "why yes, that was a good idea." 

See also: YouTube Is Chasing Hollywood—But It Should Worry About Its Homegrown Stars

This is a widely-shared sentiment amongst YouTube users, and yet the trolls keep coming. Now that the Google-owned site is spending big bucks on making its homegrown stars household names, the time for a fix is long overdue.  

It was only in May of this year that Kjellberg seemed to have a better handle on the comments system, posting a video titled "Mean Comments" where the YouTube gamer read and made good-natured fun of the troll comments on his videos. 

YouTube has tried to remedy their comment situation in the past. In September 2013, the company integrated Google+ to YouTube, so that comments from recognizable profiles were prioritized. With Google+, YouTube users were also encouraged to use their real names, which forced some less-than-pleasant users to come out from anonymity. 

After much pushback, this implementation ended in July 2014, when YouTube ended all restrictions on usernames that one could choose for the site. And once again, the trolls reared their ugly heads. 

See also: With Twitch, Amazon Has To Prove It Can Manage A Social Site

So what happens now? YouTube's number one creator and veritable face of the brand has effectively cut off a significant portion of the video site as if it were an infected limb. Kjellberg would rather interact with his 30 million fans elsewhere, rather than the one part of the site that is meant for communication. That alone should send a message to YouTube loud and clear. 

The message is this: YouTube, get your comments system together. 

YouTube is heading on a high-speed train towards mainstream media, and will now be competing with Amazon-acquired Twitch, the livestreaming gaming site whose community chat is an integral part of its service. Service which is drawing millions of new users per month. Your move, YouTube. 

Images courtesy of PewDiePie



32
Alex Hawkinson, founder of SmartThings

It’s official: Samsung’s long-rumored acquisition bid for smart-home company SmartThings is now a reality. Neither company announced terms of the deal, although Recode reports that the sale price was $200 million. If that’s true, Samsung got quite a steal, considering Google blew $3.2 billion on Nest, maker of smart thermostats and smoke detectors. 

Unlike those gadgets, SmartThings isn’t a standalone product, but a developer-frien

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dly platform that's compatible with many devices from other companies. That makes this deal a shortcut for Samsung, which now doesn’t have to grow its own smart home initiative from scratch. 

See also: Why Samsung Buying SmartThings Should Have Us Worried

On the SmartThings blog, founder and CEO Alex Hawkinson wrote, “We believe that there is an enormous opportunity to leverage Samsung’s global scale to help us realize our long-term vision.” Ideally, in other words, Samsung’s worldwide reach in product areas ranging from smart TVs to smartphones to kitchen appliances could rocket SmartThings devices into homes around the globe.

Perhaps. But the SmartThings crew may want to brace itself anyway. Samsung loves throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. Hopefully SmartThings’ carefully nurtured developer relationships and evolving ecosystem won't be among them. Because no one ever wants to see a smart home loaded down with confusion and bloatware.

Hawkinson said that SmartThings, which will technically become part of the Samsung Open Innovation Center (OIC) in San Francisco, will continue to run as an independent operation under his leadership.

Lead image courtesy of SmartThings



38

The first thing I did after downloading Foursquare’s new Swarm app was drastically cull my friends list on Foursquare from over 100 people down to just 19. 


When I joined Foursquare a few years ago, I was living in Arizona, still in college—a completely different lifestyle. As the years went by, things changed but my friends list kept growing. I stopped using Foursquare for checking in, and started using it as a location recommendation service, similar to Yelp. In my mind, it wasn’t really a social network anymore—in fact, I started keeping it among the travel apps on my iP

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hone.


This is the concept Foursquare wants to build: to move beyond the check-in. The company's recent unbundling of its services yielded two separate entities—Swarm, the social network; and Foursquare, the app you’ll use when trying to figure out what to do next.


Foursquare isn’t the first social network to experiment with splitting up its services. Facebook, most notably, has been trying to unbundle itself for years, sometimes failing along the way. Its latest move—forcing Facebook users into Messenger if they want to chat on mobile devices—was largely criticized, for example.


Foursquare is also taking a risk by dividing its efforts for two distinctly different services seemingly working in opposite directions. Yes, Foursquare's location discovery application will use your check-in data from Swarm, but Swarm also wants to create a different social experience entirely.


Swarm—Creepy Or Convenient? 











Swarm was Foursquare's way of ripping the check-in from its flagship app. The new social app uses your phone's GPS function to broadcast where you are at all times, and view others' locations, too. 


Named after the Foursquare “Swarm Badge” that signifies a busy location, Swarm is the latest “ambient location” app to launch this year. "Ambient location" apps rely on mobile phones' location services to display your general area to your friends in a passive way, without the need to check into any specific location. That's how Swarm works. 


If you decide you want to share your exact location with friends, Swarm's check-in feature is basically the same, but now you can also share your future plans with friends and invite them to join in. Ambient location sharing can be turned off, but it’s on by default.



See Also: Why Foursquare Is Breaking Up With The Check-In

I’m skeptical of location sharing in general. I rarely check into places until I’m ready to leave, and even then, I don’t see the benefit. And with Swarm, my general location is visible to anyone at any time. There are only a handful of people I’d be okay with knowing that information, and it's not anyone on the friends list I’d amassed since joining Foursquare four years ago. 


I’m probably not alone here. Ambient location apps haven’t taken off, and even Facebook’s attempt to get friends to share their general locations has fallen flat. Most people don’t mind telling their friends where they are, as long as they’re okay with those friends joining them. I bet most people don’t have 100 or more friends they’d enjoy meeting up with randomly on the street. 


Foursquare doesn’t disclose monthly active user numbers, but the company boasts over 50 million app downloads. Still, one would imagine users stay in contact with friends over Twitter and Facebook more often than they do with Foursquare, and moving check-ins to Swarm may not help Foursquare in that regard. 


Foursquare is simply not as popular as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, even though the company is technically in the same category as those companies. In 2010, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley was even dubbed "The New King Of Social Media"—but four years later, Foursquare may be doing more rebuilding than refining.


Swarm, Foursquare's new social arm, will more or less need to build its community from the ground up; Crowley says the company is building tools to make it easier to bounce between Foursquare's apps, but I doubt users like me, who primarily use Foursquare as a recommendation tool, will find Swarm appealing. 


A New Direction For Foursquare


As Swarm tries to popularize proximity apps, Foursquare will have its own hurdles to jump.


The new Foursquare app to be released later this year will offer suggestions on where to go and what to order, based on users' unique location histories. On the plus side, Foursquare’s directory of places consists of over six billion check-ins, which is more than any other service—arguably enviable by Google or Yelp. 



See Also: Foursquare CEO: How We'll Tell You Where To Eat And What To Order

Foursquare will learn your behavior based on your previous check-ins and ambient location data—such as where you like to eat, or when you like to go to the movies—and tailor suggestions for where you should go next. The Foursquare app will eventually deliver push notifications when you are at a new location, and serve up suggestions for what to do there. 


Many places have “tips,” or small reviews written by Foursquare after they check in. Unlike Yelp, these Foursquare reviews tend to be short and concise. As Foursquare moves away from the check-in, these reviews will be the focal point of the new application.


The only way for Foursquare to collect your location data once check-ins are removed is to use location services running in the background to track where you’ve been, which is concerning for privacy-conscious folks. In order to receive tailored push notifications, you’ll have to let Foursquare track you.


Foursquare’s collection of places is likely robust enough on its own to succeed as a competitor to Yelp. But will users be comfortable giving up their location information to both Foursquare and casual contacts on a regular basis? I'm not convinced. 


Lead image via John Fischer on Flickr



1
E-commerce has skyrocketed in the last decade. Creating your own online business is a great way to make a buck. Learn about starting an online business and how to make it work for you.
36









Mt. Gox, the Bitcoin exchange that was the victim of a massive hacker attack that stole hundreds of millions of dollars of its users’ bitcoins—forcing the company to file for bankruptcy protection—is under attack again. This time, the exchange says a group of hackers has broken into the company’s servers, allegedly targeting the company’s CEO, Mark Karpeles, in a search for answers.


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lass="p2">According to Forbes, hackers on Sunday allegedly hijacked Karpeles’ personal blog and Reddit account to post a pair of angry letters, which said the Mt. Gox CEO had stolen at least some of users’ bitcoins for himself. Included with the letters was a large file that contained an Excel spreadsheet, which purports to show Mt. Gox’s company balances in 18 different currencies, including Bitcoin—something the hackers hoped to use as proof of Karpeles’ lying about users’ lost or stolen money.



22









Today Facebook announced plans for a new data center in Luleå, Sweden—one based on modular architectural concept the company calls “rapid deployment data center,” or RDDC. One of the construct approaches, “flat pack”—basically a way of packing together the modular walls of a data center into easily transportable units, much like a box containing a disassembled bookshelf—was inspired by Ikea, the minimalist furniture and

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home accessory company that's also based in Sweden. 


Sadly, there's no word on the assembly instructions, which are presumably in pictorial form, or whether hex wrenches are included with every set.


Image courtesy of Facebook



27

Soon you’ll be able to order food or book an appointment by using a Square app.


On Wednesday, the payments company announced the acquisition of BookFresh, a booking tool for services businesses. It is also testing a new application called Square Pickup that lets users order directly in the application, pay with Square, and pick up their food in the restaurant when they're ready. 


The moves represent a broadening of Square’s payments business beyond its original, iconic credit-card swiping device, which let businesses accept in-person payments with a smartphone o

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r tablet—a substitute for cash registers and credit-card terminals.


Last year, it expanded into e-commerce with Square Market, which let existing Square merchants take online orders. It also has apps for consumers, like Square Cash, which allows people to send and receive transactions via a mobile device, and Square Wallet, which lets buyers pay with stored payment information rather than having to take out a card to swipe it.


Square Pickup, like Square Market, is best thought of as an extension of Square’s existing in-person payments for restaurants, delis, and cafes already using Square. Rather than having customers call in an order and then pay for it by swiping a card, it lets buyers order and pay through an app. It’s helped by the fact that Square merchants have already loaded their menu into Square's Register app.


BookFresh, a San Francisco-based startup, will similarly help service providers who use Square to accept payments to also manage appointments.



See Also: How Square Cash Could Put Money In The Company's Bank Account

Robin Dhar at Priceonomics first noticed Square's new application when he picked up lunch from a local eatery. The app is still in beta and only available at select locations. In order to use Square Pickup, you need an invite code.


A spokeswoman for Square declined to comment about Square Pickup, though the signup form is publicly available on Square’s website.


Square Pickup faces competition from order-on-demand applications from Seamless, Postmates, Yelp, and PayPal. But rather than taking those companies heads-on, Square is more likely making a defensive play to keep Square merchants from trying those competing services for orders, and consolidating their transactions with Square.


The BookFresh acquisition, by contrast, could help Square expand its business among service providers.


Image courtesy of Square



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