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the_newsbeagle writes "Most of the researchers who work on flexible electronics imagine putting their materials to use in flexible displays, like a rollable, foldable iPad that you could cram in your pocket. And I'm not saying that wouldn't be cool. But researcher Takao Someya of the University of Tokyo has a different idea: He wants his ultra-thin, ultra-flexible electronics to be used as bionic skin. Someya and other researchers have created circuits that stick to your skin, and that can stretch and bend as you move your body. These materials are still in the labs, but the scientists imagine many uses for them. For example, if a synthetic skin is studded with pressure and heat sensors, it could be used as a lifelike covering for prosthetic limbs. There are also potential biomedical applications: The e-skin could discreetly monitor an outpatient's vital signs, and send the data to a nearby computer. The article includes a short video showing Someya's material in action."

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Aurich Lawson

Some say we're living in a "post-PC" world, but malware on PCs is still a major problem for home computer users and businesses.

The examples are everywhere: In November, we reported that malware was used to steal information about one of Japan's newest rockets and upload it to computers controlled by hackers. Critical systems at two US power plants were recently found infected with malware spread by USB drives. Malware known as "Dexter" stole credit card data from point-of-sale terminals at businesses. And espionage-motivated computer threats are getting more sophisticated and versatile all the time.

In this second installment in the Ars Guide to Online Security, we'll cover the basics for those who may not be familiar with the different types of malware that can affect computers. Malware comes in a variety of types, including viruses, worms, and Trojans.

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The Ubuntu phone operating system will come with a terminal application. That's right: experienced users will have access to the full power of the Linux system running underneath the phone's shiny graphical user interface.

While Ubuntu phone code hasn't been released publicly yet, it seems that development will take place somewhat in the open, with a wiki devoted to the platform's core applications, which include e-mail, calendar, clock/alarm, weather, file manager, document viewer, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

In addition, the terminal application will emulate the Linux terminal in an application window and perhaps have a special keyboard layout optimized for Linux commands. One of the key development requirements is that the terminal app integrate with BusyBox, a set of Unix tools. Developers are welcome to propose designs for the application. To get things started, Canonical has posted a few mockups, including this one:

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Canonical

Ubuntu is coming to phones near the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014, as we reported earlier today. After the announcement, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth spoke to the media about why he thinks Ubuntu will be great on phones and, more specifically, why it will be better than Android.

Somewhat confusingly, Ubuntu has two phone projects. One of them is called "Ubuntu for Android," which allows Android smartphones to act as Ubuntu PCs when docked with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. The version of Ubuntu for phones announced today is just Ubuntu, no Android required, allowing devices to run Ubuntu in both the phone and PC form factor, with different interfaces optimized for the different screens. Canonical is keeping Ubuntu for Android around, even as it touts its own phone operating system as a better alternative.

The smartphone market is already dominated by iPhone and Android, with RIM losing prominence, Windows Phone making a charge at third place, and various other operating systems aiming for elusive name recognition. So why should carriers and handset makers warm to Ubuntu, and why should anyone buy an Ubuntu phone?

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AT&T's Toggle lets users switch between the work and personal parts of their smartphones.

AT&T

AT&T says it has the answer for corporations that want to let employees access work applications from personal phones without becoming a security threat. A new virtualization-style technology that works on both Android and iPhones creates a work container that is isolated from an employee's personal applications and data, letting IT shops manage just the portion of the phone related to work.

This isn't a new idea. ARM is talking about adding virtualization into the smartphone chip layer. VMware has been promising to virtualize smartphones for some time. What is notable about AT&T's technology is its flexibility. VMware's technology hasn't hit end users yet, largely because it must be pre-installed by phone manufacturers, limiting it to carriers and device makers that want to install it on their hardware.

AT&T's "Toggle" technology, meanwhile, works with any Android device from versions 2.2 to 3.x, as well as iPhones, and can be installed after a user buys it. Moreover, the technology is somewhat separate from AT&T's cellular division and can be used with any carrier.

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Enlarge / Infogr.am's splash page lets you choose between creating a new design, or accessing previously stored works.

Let's say you want to compare the airspeed velocity of various unladen swallows. You could put that data into a spreadsheet, or present it using a graph. Chances are you'll pick the latter.

The question is, how do you create a graph that not only looks nice, but presents said data in a coherent, easy to understand way? You could go the traditional route, and make something basic in Microsoft Office or your productivity suite of choice. Or, if you have a bit more skill, you could opt for the flexibility of Adobe Illustrator instead. But perhaps you have neither software nor skill, and just want to make a simple graph or chart.

Infogr.am takes the same approach that Tumblr took to blogging, by turning the otherwise daunting task of creating great infographics into a process that's dead-simple. You bring the raw data to Infogr.am, and the site's online tool can help you turn that data into a nice looking chart or full-blown infographic in minutes.  It's really that simple—assuming you have a Facebook or Twitter account required to login—though, at times, to a fault.

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2961565820_3d59b7bdfb

Editor’s Note: This article is co-authored by Nir Eyal and Jason Hreha. Nir is the founder of two acquired startups and blogs at NirAndFar.com. Jason is the founder of Dopamine, a user-experience and behavior design firm. He blogs at persuasive.ly.

Yin asked not to be identified by her real name. A young addict in her mid-twenties, she lives in Palo Alto and, despite her addiction, attends Stanford University. She has all the composure and polish you’d expect of a student at a prestigious school, yet she succombs to her habit throughout the day. She can’t help it; she’s compulsively hooked.

Yin is an Instagram addict. The photo sharing social network, recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, captured the minds of Yin and 40 million others like her. The acquisition demonstrates the increasing importance — and immense value created by — habit-forming technologies. Of course, the Instagram purchase price was driven by a host of factors, including a rumored bidding war for the company. But at its core, Instagram is the latest example of an enterprising team, conversant in psychology as much as technology, that unleashed an addictive product on users who made it part of their daily routines.

Like all addicts, Yin doesn’t realize she’s hooked. “It’s just fun,” she says as she captures her latest in a collection of moody snapshots reminiscent of the late 1970s. “I don’t have a problem or anything. I just use it whenever I see something cool. I feel I need to grab it before it’s gone.”

THE TRIGGER IN YOUR HEAD

Instagram manufactured a predictable response inside Yin’s brain. Her behavior was reshaped by a reinforcement loop which, through repeated conditioning, created a connection between the things she sees in world around her and the app inside her pocket.

When a product is able to become tightly coupled with a thought, an emotion, or a pre-existing habit, it creates an “internal trigger.” Unlike external triggers, which are sensory stimuli, like a phone ringing or an ad online telling us to “click here now!,” you can’t see, touch, or hear an internal trigger. Internal triggers manifest automatically in the mind and creating them is the brass ring of consumer technology.

We check Twitter when we feel boredom. We pull up Facebook when we’re lonesome. The impulse to use these services is cued by emotions. But how does an app like Instagram create internal triggers in Yin and millions of other users? Turns out there is a stepwise approach to create internal triggers:

1 — EDUCATE AND ACQUIRE WITH EXTERNAL TRIGGERS

Instagram filled Twitter streams and Facebook feeds with whimsical sepia-toned images, each with multiple links back to the service. These external triggers not only helped attract new users, but also showed them how to use the product. Instagram effectively used external triggers to communicate what their service is for.

“Fast beautiful photo sharing,” as their slogan says, conveyed the purpose of the service. And by clearly communicating the use-case, Instagram was successful in acquiring millions of new users. But high growth is not enough. In a world full of digital distractions, Instagram needed users to employ the product daily.

2 — CREATE DESIRE

To get users using, Instagram followed a product design pattern familiar among habit-forming technologies, the desire engine. After clicking through from the external trigger, users are prompted to install the app and they begin using it for the first time. The minimalist interface all but removes the need to think. With a click, a photo is taken and all kinds of sensory and social rewards ensue. Each photo taken and shared further commits the user to the app. Subsequently, users change not only their behavior, but also their minds.

3 — AFFIX THE INTERNAL TRIGGER

Finally, a habit is formed. Users no longer require an external stimulus to use Instagram because the internal trigger happens on its own. As Yin said, “I just use it whenever I see something cool.” Having viewed the “popular” tab of the app thousands of times, she’s honed her understanding of what “cool” is. She’s also received feedback from friends who reward her with comments and likes. Now she finds herself constantly on the hunt for images that fit the Instagram style. Like a never-ending scavenger hunt, she feels compelled to capture these moments.

For millions of users like Yin, Instagram is a harbor for emotions and inspirations, a virtual memoir in pretty pixels. By thoughtfully moving users from external to internal triggers, Instagram designed a persistent routine in peoples’ lives. Once the users’ internal triggers began to fire, competing services didn’t stand a chance. Each snapshot further committed users to Instagram, making it indispensable to them, and apparently to Facebook as well.

Photo credit: Dierk Schaefer

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google I'm feeling lucky stock 1020

There was once a time when the business of consumer technology was conducted with tangible goods. You bought a thing, whether it was a Sony VCR or a Sega console, you carried it home amidst a hormonal high of hunter-gatherer instinct, and you prayed to the electro-deities that it wouldn't lose whatever format war it was engaged in. Adding functionality to your purchase was done in the same way. You returned to the store, picked up cartridges, cassettes, or discs, and inserted them into the appropriate receptacle.

That overriding paradigm hasn't actually changed in modern times, even as the devices themselves have grown exponentially more versatile. Your choice of hardware still matters in determining what you can and can't access,...

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