All posts by william wang

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge lends positive attention to serious disease

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Lou Gehrig  would have gotten a great laugh at all the ‘ice bucket challenge’ and attention that took his life. The New York Yankee legend became a popular figure head for ALS after being diagnosed with the disease in 1941, just shy of 38 years old. Describing himself as the ‘luckiest man alive’ after being diagnosed with ALS, Gehrig gave his remaining years, post voluntary retirement, to bring awareness to ALS. Many people do not realize the seriousness and need to draw attention to this debilitating neurological disease and the much needed help to find a cure for the over 5,000 plus victims diagnosed annually in the U.S.

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a motor neuron disease, neurodegenerative disease

A=No. Myo = Muscle. Trophic = Nourishment

When a ‘muscle’ has no nourishment, it atrophies or wastes away. The progression and process of ALS slowly debilitates the connection between the brain and spinal cord, which work cohesively to communicate to the ‘voluntary muscles’ throughout the body. As ALS progresses, the muscle communication declines eventually resulting in paralysis. Muscle ‘atrophy’ and become smaller, weaker as the nutrition to the muscles declines.

“The body has many kinds of nerves. There are those involved in the process of thinking, memory, and of detecting sensations (such as hot/cold, sharp/dull), and others for vision, hearing, and other bodily functions. The nerves that are affected when you have ALS are the motor neurons that provide voluntary movements and muscle power. Examples of voluntary movements are your making the effort to reach for the phone or step off a curb; these actions are controlled by the muscles in the arms and legs.

The heart and the digestive system are also made of muscle but a different kind, and their movements are not under voluntary control. When your heart beats or a meal is digested, it all happens automatically. Therefore, the heart and digestive system are not involved in ALS. Breathing also may seem to be involuntary. Remember, though, while you cannot stop your heart, you can hold your breath – so be aware that ALS may eventually have an impact on breathing.

The heart and lungs are referred to as ‘involuntary muscles’, thus the reason why they can continue to function with ALS.

What causes ALS?

Chromosome 21 – There is a possible genetic link in defect of chromosome 21, where the condition reoccurs in 20% of families and 2% overall.

Environmental exposure may be linked to ALS

Many factors may be attributed to ALS

What treatment is available for ALS?

Currently, the FDA has approved ‘Riluzole’ to treat ALS, delaying the progression of the disease. Devices and therapy are also used to help treat ALS.

To learn more about ALS visit ALSA’s website at www.alsa.org

To take the ‘ice bucket challenge’ fill a bucket with icy, cold water, get a friend (or enemy who needs to get you back….) and have another friend/family member record you taking the challenge. Send out your recorded ice bucket challenge to all your friends via social media and challenge them (or call out individual names) to take the challenge, too! It’s ‘clean’ fun for a good cause!

China blocks Line, Kakao Talk to counter terrorism, S. Korea reports

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Since the first day of July, the messaging apps started to have disrupted services which have caught the attention of the ICT, Ministry of Science, and Future Planning in Seoul.

Kakao Talk and Line are just two of the popular apps in Asian markets such as China and India. Kakao Talk is operated by the South Korean based Kakao Corp whereas Line is under a Japanese subsidiary of Naver, South Korea’s biggest portal.

The reason behind the issue is now being investigated. China explained that some foreign messaging apps had been blocked, believing that the apps are used as channels for circulating terrorism-related information. These would include planning the attacks or spreading some details on how to make bombs. Apart from the apps, terrorists would also use video websites for their channels.

Lee Jin-Gyu, director of the Internet Policy unit, told reporters that “The ministry will continue negotiations with Chinese authorities so that users’ inconveniences be resolved at the earliest possible date.” He added that apart from Kakao Talk and Line, other foreign messaging services were also affected such as Vower, TalkBox, and Didi.

China itself has a main messaging app which, interestingly, is spared from suffering disrupted services. Dubbed as Weixin which is the sibling of WeChat, the service still operates normally even though it can also be a channel that can be used by terrorists to exchange information. However, Chinese internet company Tencent works round the clock to clean up messages and save itself from getting into trouble with the Chinese government.

A spokeswoman at Kakao Corp said that service disruptions continued while a spokesman at Naver Corp said he had been notified of the blockage. Both have declined to give further comments.

China is known as one of those countries that places tight control over the Internet. The government occasionally schedules its internet blocks as soon as it notices any signs of dissent or challenges to the Communist Party. It has already blocked access to several websites that include Twitter and YouTube using a blocking system known as the “Great Firewall.” The government tightens its restrictions on certain dates which are believed to be sensitive.

KakaoTalk and Line aren’t the only affected online services that have a disabled access to Chinese users. Currently, Yahoo’s Flickr and Microsoft’s OneDrive are inaccessible as well. On the other hand, Viber, which is another popular mobile messenger, seemed to be running normally.

The Fastest Mi Phone – Xiaomi Mi 4 Launched Ahead of iPhone 6

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Xiaomi the so called “China Apple” has already launched its flagship product, earlier than Apple Inc’s flagship product, at the company’s “The Journey of a Piece of Steel” event yesterday.

While iPhone 6’s launch date is yet to be confirmed, Xiao Mi 4 was already launched this week together with the Mi Band, Xiaomi’s first wearable device. The Mi 4 was named as “The Fastest and Most Gorgeous Mi Phone Ever”. Mi 4 will also be released this July.

Lei Jun, the founder of Xiaomi, stated on the event that the company sold 57.36 million phones in its first three years of operation, TechinAsia Liveblog reports.

Xiaomi Company sold 7.9 million Xiaomi Mi phones – 17.4 million Xiaomi M2 phones, 10.5 million Xiaomi Mi 3 phones, 18 million Hongmi or the so called Redmi outside China and 3.56 million Hongmi Note or Redmi Note.

The company claims that Xiaomi Mi 3 was sold out 40 minutes just after its release in India, NDTV reports. The company is expecting to have greater revenue for the newly launched Xiaomi Mi 4.

According to XiaomiChina, Mi 4 will feature a stainless steel frame that has an unbelievable craftsmanship and polish. Its hardware has a 2.5gz Quad-core Snapdragon 801 chipset processor, 3 GB RAM and can choose from 16 or 64 GB internal storage. It has a 5 inch screen size with a 1080x1920p full HD resolution and a very high colour gamut.

The company also posted that Mi 4’s stainless steel metal frame features have undergone 40 processes and 193 steps.

For its camera specifications: 13 megapixels is installed on the rear camera with real-time HDR and 4K video recording. While the 8 megapixels front camera has an 80-degree wide angle. The smartphone has a durable 3080 mAh internal battery with a quick charging ability.

“The Xiaomi Mi 4 has Android 4.4 under MIUI V6 – so that’s the first time a Xiaomi phone launches with the very latest version of Android in China.” says on TechinAsia Liveblog. “The new Mi 4 has a very slim bezel at each side, but the company assures people that the screen will ignore accidental inputs on the side.”

The 16 GB Mi 4 is available for US$322 or AU$342.91 while the 64 GB Mi 4 will be available at US$400 or AU$425.97.

LeTV teams up with domestic production houses

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Online video streaming website LeTV announced partnerships with several domestic production houses and TV presenters in an effort to beef up video content and attract more viewers.

Taiwanese TV anchor and producer Jacky Wu joined a number of TV variety show producers who will be providing exclusive programs for LeTV in the next few years.

LeTV Chief Operating Officer Gao Fei said at a media briefing yesterday that it will focus more on short videos that are easier for viewers to watch on the go.

Demand for short video clips is picking up due to higher mobile data connection speeds and the popularity of smartphones and mobile devices.

It will also provide self-produced variety shows.

Last year, LeTV unveiled its first TV set, following other Internet companies into the hardware market.

China’s online video sites are expanding into producing their own content as they are no longer satisfied with just being a distribution channel for TV series and movies.

E-commerce giant Alibaba Group last month completed the takeover of Hong Kong-listed film production company ChinaVision Media.

No, The New Gmail API Is Not Killing IMAP

At Google’s I/O developer conference, the company announced a new way for developers to build apps that integrate with Gmail, via its brand-new Gmail API. Designed to allow programmatic access to messages, threads, labels and drafts, the API was initially misunderstood by some as Google’s attempt to “kill off IMAP,” an older email protocol that offers email access, retrieval and storage.

That confusion seemed to come about largely because of the wording in one highly trafficked Wall St. Journal article, which originally said that the new API would “replace IMAP, a common but complex way for applications to communicate with most email services.” (The article has since been updated with new language that says “instead of” as opposed to “replace.”)

Google’s developer’s documentation also backs this up: the new Gmail API will not be killing off IMAP – at least, not yet – but it will make Gmail application development easier.

The Gmail API does not offer full inbox access for all operations, explains Google in a blog post detailing the API’s new features; it’s about giving fine-grained control to applications which don’t need “full-fledged email client access,” as the developer documentation states.

Instead, the API would work well for apps that need to scan through your inbox, looking for e-receipts, itineraries or order confirmations; those that let you schedule email to be sent later; CRM applications; email “snooze” buttons; and more. In these cases where full inbox access is not required, the Gmail API would be quicker than using IMAP to perform a search or find a particular email thread.

And while the Gmail API means Google is inviting developers to build ever more applications that dig into your most private social network – that of your email inbox – it’s also doing so in a way that actually better respects the sensitivity of that data.

Now, if a user wants to authorize an app that only performs one function, like sending mail on the user’s behalf, but not retrieving incoming messages, the Gmail API could allow for this, where before that same app built with IMAP would mean the developer would have to access all of your emails just to get their app to work.

However, the Gmail API stops short of enabling the lineup of mobile email clients, like Accompli, CloudMagic, Boxer or Gusto, for example. Those apps will still need to work with the older protocols like IMAP and SMTP, at least until Google decides to expand the Gmail API further to include all the functionality of IMAP, if the company ever chooses to go that route.

The Gmail API is now in beta, as Google solicits developer feedback before a wider launch.

Foursquare, Quora, Path: What Becomes Of The Underachievers?

Foursquare, Quora, Path. Each is (or was) a Valley darling; each has millions of loyal users; each has raised more than $50 million, albeit nontraditionally, and been valued at $400 million or more — and each has recently done something remarkable. Foursquare and Path pivoted, hard. Quora, bizarrely, joined Y Combinator.

Are they just flailing, or is there method to this madness?

Foursquare, which started life as “the check-in app,” is ripping check-ins out of its eponymous app and moving them to its new ambient-social app called Swarm. What’s more, it’s planning to start charging for heavy use of its API, which is much beloved by third-party developers (including me.)

Which leaves it seeming more than a little unfocused. The main Foursquare app has essentially become a Yelp competitor. Swarm is now a side business, presumably because check-ins are no longer a growth industry, and haven’t been for some years now. Foursquare is allegedly on course to bring in $30-$40 million in revenue this year, which sounds good — but is not a lot for a company which has raised more than $160 million at valuations north of $600 million … if its growth has slowed.

Path, the mobile social network whose superb design wowed the Valley some years ago, before it began to look like a beautiful solution in search of a problem, has pivoted almost as dramatically. First they ripped a page out of Snapchat’s book and suddenly retroactively made all Path messages ephemeral. A week later they launched a new messaging app and acquired consumer-to-business messaging service TalkTo.

Again, an odd sudden change of direction for a four-year-old company which has raised $65 million. Everyone loves messaging apps today, in principle, thanks to WhatsApp — but the world already has Line, Viber, Kik, Snapchat, WeChat, Tango, etc, to say nothing of Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. It’s hard to see how (maybe) the sixth-place social network, which has struggled with layoffs and executive exits, benefits from branching out to become (maybe) the thirteenth-place messaging app. But Path has to do something … if its growth has slowed.

Quora is the strangest case of all. Why join Y Combinator? I mean, it didn’t cost them much, and it’s nice that it’ll be “fun personally to participate” for Adam D’Angelo, but how is it anything other than a distraction? “We’ll have Sam and all the other partners to help us,” D’Angelo says, without specifying what kind of help they want.

I think we can all make a pretty good guess, though. Quora was recently valued at some $900 million, but as Josh Constine puts it:

Quora has been cagey about its stats since forever, only talking in relative growth and vanity metrics rather than absolute user counts … This makes it tough to know exactly how popular it is, but the general consensus hovers around “known amongst Silicon Valley intellectuals” and “just not big enough”.

Joining YC might seem weird or even desperate, but weird or even desperate is actually the right move for Quora … if its growth has slowed.

You might be noticing a theme here.

As Paul Graham once put it: “A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup.” But, similarly, just because you’re “late-stage” — big, massively well-funded and relatively mature — doesn’t mean you’re not a startup. A corollary of Graham’s definition is: if you need to grow fast, then no matter how big you are, you’re still a startup … meaning you’re still extremely vulnerable.

Foursquare, Path, and Quora don’t yet have mature business models lucrative enough to justify their funding and valuation. Meaning all three are still startups, and have no choice but to keep growing, fast. That’s a huge challenge. It’s relatively easy to double a userbase when it numbers in the thousands; much harder when it’s already in the millions, unless you benefit from network effects. Doubly so when you’ve lost your cool and become yesterday’s news, no longer the talk of the Valley’s chattering classes:

Does it sound like I’m being hard on them? That is not my intent. All three companies have done genuinely extraordinary things. They have scaled from scrappy outsiders into significant players. They have millions of faithful users. While it’s true they have succeeded well within their founders’ wildest dreams, they are still among the best of the best, or they wouldn’t have gotten to where they are today.

But the lesson here is that even that’s not good enough. Not if you stop growing before you start making money. Today’s tech industry will eagerly accept hypergrowth in lieu of revenue, but it will not accept neither. If you’re not yet raking in money, then you must grow, and keep growing, fast … or suffer and eventually die. And the bigger you are, the harder it is to keep riding the hockey stick — and the harder you fall if you fail.