The importance of teaching coding at a younger age

Jathan Sadowski writes on about how pushing people to code will widen the divide between the rich and poor.

For instance, the burden of adding coding to curricula ignores the fact that the English literacy rate in America is still abysmal: 45 million U.S. adults are “functionally illiterate” and “read below a 5th grade level,” according to data gathered by the Literacy Project Foundation. Almost half of all Americans read “so poorly that they are unable to perform simple tasks such as reading prescription drug labels.” The reading proficiency of Americans is much lower than most other developed countries, and it’s declining.

I don’t agree with Sadowski about how literacy and the ability to code should be lumped together when considering the school curriculum. Just because a person is illiterate doesn’t mean that they are precluded from learning programming.

Teaching children how to code will instil in them problem-solving skills and logical thinking. More importantly, it will eventually become essential for our children to be able to read and write code. Software is changing the world. Technology has become an integral part of our lives. We need to be able to understand how technology works.

LINE Shopping launched in Malaysia and Indonesia

We brought your attention to LINE recently, notably when the popular Asian messaging system hit the 300 million user milestone. The company isn’t intent on resting on its laurels, and has just launched LINE Shopping in Malaysia today. The launch of LINE Shopping in Indonesia at the end of November was quite successful, collecting about 900,000 subscribers within a week. You can bet that Naver (the company behind LINE) is looking to repeat that feat or improve upon it.

LINE is already well known for its adorable and expressive stickers, and offering a free sticker set as an incentive to get folks to subscribe will definitely drive subscription numbers.

The next step will be to see how well LINE harnesses its subscriber base to promote wares from its retail partners, including Groupon, Lazada, Zalora, Rakuten, Superbuy, H&M and more. With messaging platforms being highly personal, if LINE manages to continue its growth trajectory and strengthen partnerships, it’ll be able to have an edge against competitors in Asia such as WeChat and Kakao Talk.

LINE Shopping launched for e-commerce business in Indonesia and Malaysia

Android’s list of blocked words reports that Android’s Google Keyboard is not correcting certain words.

The banned directory includes “butt” and “geek,” all seven of George Carlin’s dirty words, a frat party’s worth of homophobia and misogyny, and is peppered with pornographic sub genres and fetishistically obscure medical terms, like “gonadatrophia” and “irrumination.” Genitalia is banned (with special attention paid to women’s bodies) as well as a mystifying selection of words that aren’t generally considered offensive, like “thud” and “LSAT.”

Taken as a whole, Google’s list suggests not only a surprising discomfort with sexuality, but also reproductive health and undergarments. Words like “panty,” “braless,” “Tampax,” “lactation,” and “preggers” are censored along with sexual health vocabulary like “uterus” and “STI.”

“I try to Swype-type the word ‘condom’ and I get ‘condition’ or ‘confusion,’” said Jillian York, a spokesperson for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “There is no context in which that makes any sense. Grow up, Android.”

It is fun to text my Android-using friends, especially when they are too drunk or tired to check their typos. This is going to take some fun out of it unless they disable the filter.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 now available in gold and red

Android Central reports that Samsung has announced three new colours for its Galaxy Note 3.

Its black and white models now comes with rose gold versions that has gold instead of silver accents. It also unveiled a merlot red version.

HTC launched a gold version of its HTC One after producing a limited edition in real gold. After launching a limited edition gold Galaxy S4, Samsung is bringing gold to the mass market with the gold Galaxy Note 3.

I think we are way past the debate on whether a gold phone appeals to the public. The gold iPhone 5s has silenced the critics.

Samsung doesn’t seem to understand that a gold plastic phone feels completely different from a gold aluminium phone.

Jolla phone, the Nokia that could have been

Vlad Savov writes on The Verge about his experience with the Jolla phone.

All the effort of adapting to Jolla might be worth it if the device offered some unique advantage over others on the smartphone market, but it doesn’t. The only standout quality it has is the goodwill of old Nokia loyalists and those who like to support grassroots projects. Unfortunately, there just isn’t a very good smartphone here, and that’s what you need if you intend to compete with behemoths like Google, whose Nexus 5 is a startlingly good value at 70 euros less.

The Jolla’s strength is in having a lighter software stack — underpinned by the Qt framework, which provides the basis both for its native apps and its UI — than Android while still being compatible with Android apps. Alas, not being an actual Android device, it lacks access to the Google Play Store, so you’re left to fend for yourself with the limited Yandex and Jolla app stores and the downloadable Amazon Appstore. You can sideload app APKs if you wish, but that’d require that you understand what the process involves and where to find the requisite software. It’s rough going.

The product is still rough on the edges, but it has a passionate team working on it. There is potential for Jolla to become a good alternative to Apple and Android smartphones. But at the moment, most consumers would probably go for similarly priced phones that has better features. I can’t see people going for this phone unless they want to support the Jolla team.

Salesforce botched its hackathon. Then botched it again.

Hackathons are usually greeted positively, though the way that Salesforce handled the judging of its recent hackathon seems pretty disappointing. One of the most notable issues is the rule that teams can only start working on their apps from Oct 25, and that they must be coded from scratch. That sounds fine until you realize that the winning app (Upshot) was also demoed on Oct 8 at a Salesforce meetup. Salesforce eventually responded that it was acceptable to use pre-existing code as long as the code did not comprise of the majority of the app and did not violate any third party’s rights. Only mentioning that after the winning app was discovered to use pre-existing code hardly seems fair, and still doesn’t resolve the issue that it was demoed before the Hackathon started.

To make matters worse, one of the engineers in the winning team was a Salesforce enginner for a good nine years. Though the rules state that employees as of Sept 1st 2013 would not be able to enter, and since this person was employed until sometime this year, it’s probably still within the rules, but considering the issues mentioned above, it’s certainly going to cause some discontent amongst contestants.

The Dirty Secret Behind the Salesforce $1M Hackathon

While Salesforce rules say employees as of Sep 1, 2013 could not enter the hackathon, it appears people who were employed not just as recently as this year, but who is “Formerly an engineer at Salesforce for 9 years. Lead engineer on Salesforce Analytics. Tech lead for Custom Report Types and many other reporting features” sure are allowed to participate and win. And guess what their app was? A “tool that lets you easily create and edit [Salesforce] reports on a mobile device.”

The company did get around to officially responding to the issue on its blog, even going so far as to announce a second winner for the $1 million prize. Unfortunately some folks also noticed that the folks behind the second winning app ( work for a company that Salesforce has invested in. Unless the rules explicitly state otherwise, this usually isn’t an issue, but then again, we are dealing with a sensitive situation here, and the complaints are still coming in.

Windows Phone successfully competing with Android for the low end market?

While Android and iOS devices are constantly fighting for the top end of the market, Windows Phone has slowly and steadily been working the low end of the market. That’s not to say that Android doens’t compete there too. There are countless cheap Android phones that flood the market, and more are being churned out by manufacturers each day.

The interesting thing to note is that since it’s fairly easy (and cheap) to have Android running on a phone, there are so many low-end Android devices with sub-par user experiences on the market, normally due to underpowered processors or the lack of RAM. So far Windows Phone hasn’t had to contend with that issue much, as most of the Windows Phones in the market are currently being churned out by Nokia. Even the lower end Nokia Lumia 525, which is priced around $199, has some respectable hardware, which should offer a reasonable user experience.

Could the strategy of releasing cheap and good low-end Windows Phones actually beat Android at its own game?

The Windows Phone may be quietly becoming a real competitor to Android

That’s not what ordinary shoppers thought. Numbers out this morning from market research firm Kantar Worldpanel show that more people than ever before are buying the phone, and not just in its traditional stronghold of Latin America. For the three months from August to October, the Windows phone’s share of smartphone sales doubled or more over the year prior in nearly every large European country, while also showing respectable gains in Australia and the United States. The only place its market share fell is in China, which is unsurprising given that China’s market is dominated by local players who tend to install their own versions of the free Android operating system.

Study shows removing DRM boosts music sales by 10 percent

When DRM was first introduced to curb music piracy, and apparently “save” the music industry, it probably has done nothing reduce the value that people get from legitimately purchased music.

What Piracy? Removing DRM Boosts Music Sales by 10 Percent

DRM was once praised as the ultimate tool to prevent music piracy, but new research shows that the opposite is true. Comparing album sales of four major labels before and after the removal of DRM reveals that digital music revenue increases by 10% when restrictions are removed. The effect goes up to 30% for long tail content, while top-selling albums show no significant jump. The findings suggest that dropping technical restrictions can benefit both artists and the major labels.

Amazon Prime Air delivery drones to achieve half-hour shipping

While most are still busy trying to work out same-day shipping, Amazon is already working on half-hour shipping. Amazing.

Delivery drones are coming: Jeff Bezos promises half-hour shipping with Amazon Prime Air

Amazon’s CEO loves a good reveal, and took the opportunity afforded by a 60 Minutes segment to show off his company’s latest creation: drones that can deliver packages up to five pounds, to your house in less than half an hour. They’re technically octocopters, as part of a program called “Amazon Prime Air.” A drone sits at the end of a conveyer belt, waiting to pick up a package — Bezos says 86 percent of Amazon’s packages are under five pounds — and can carry them up to ten miles from the fulfillment center.

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