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Penny for your thoughts...

EmotivAre you ready to be freaked out?

Then read this article from Wired magazine.

It reports findings of a study that showed researchers could read the thoughts of subjects who wore certain EEG headsets. The headsets, which read brainwaves, are already readily available and help people with disabilities manipulate computers and games hands free.

A team of security researchers from Oxford, UC Berkeley, and the University of Geneva say that they were able to deduce digits of PIN numbers, birth months, areas of residence and other personal information by presenting 30 headset-wearing subjects with images of ATM machines, debit cards, maps, people, and random numbers in a series of experiments. The paper, titled “On the Feasibility of Side-Channel Attacks with Brain Computer Interfaces,” represents the first major attempt to uncover potential security risks in the use of the headsets.

“The correct answer was found by the first guess in 20% of the cases for the experiment with the PIN, the debit cards, people, and the ATM machine,” write the researchers. “The location was exactly guessed for 30% of users, month of birth for almost 60% and the bank based on the ATM machines for almost 30%.”

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Pint-sized programmers....

KidsComputersGrandparents like to joke that their toddler grandkids know more about the computer than they do. And who doesn't get a chuckle when they see a four-year-old boot up the family's PC?

But it looks like early exposure to computers, gaming and coding could be the key to turning out American engineers, something this country does less of than India and China.

This article on Bloomberg takes an interesting look at pint-sized computer programmers:

Lua is one of a handful of visual coding languages that are helping kids try their hand at software coding amid a boom in online games and applications for devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone. The user-friendly tools are being popularized by sites like Roblox, a platform that lets users create and play games with interactive animations from zombies to medieval fortresses. They could be instrumental in helping fill what companies like Google Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. say is a shortfall in U.S. engineering talent . . . .

Some young people are picking up coding skills from online programming classes offered by startups, including Udacity Inc., Codecademy and Coursera Inc. More than 1 million people have taken Codecademy courses since its introduction in August 2011, and elementary school teachers through college professors have used the material in their classrooms, said Codecademy co- founder Zach Sims, who said learning coding is the “new literacy.”

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Poking fun at Facebook

Facebook shares have hit their lowest levels since hitting the market, losing 47 percent of their value, on the heels of the company's first earnings report.

The report showed costs are up, revenue growth has slowed and user activity is down.

Facebook's entry into the market has been entertaining to watch. Seems plenty of cartoonists think so, too.





---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

iPhone leaks hint at thinner phone and bigger screen

IphoneApple is expected to release its latest version of the iPhone this fall.

Tech geeks at the Wall Street Journal have been nosing around the company's Asian suppliers, and have pieced together a few hints about how the next generation iPhone will be different, judging by the components that are being made for it.

Among the new features are a larger, thinner screen with scratch-resistant glass, a new operating system and enhanced Siri functions.

Here are some more leaks and rumors about what we might see in the phone's next incarnation, from Slate News:



Does a minimum wage help or hurt workers?

AppleSome retail employees of the Apple Store will soon be getting raises, by as much as 25 percent. Workers there typically earn $9 to $15 per hour, while tech support makes as much as $30 per hour.

The company said it is instituting the performance-review-based raises after a survey found its workers were underpaid, but analysts speculated the company was also motivated to better compensate workers once it found they were being poached by Microsoft for its own retail stores.

Employee compensation is an interesting subject. Here is a neat little tutorial about wage determination in competitive markets. It's from the United Kingdom, but still works.

Here's a video lesson:


Subscribing to free market theory, many folks believe minimum wage and other regulations concerning wages and benefits should be done away with.

This Web site lists what it believes to be the pros of ending minimum wage. It says abolishing minimum wage would create more jobs, prevent outsourcing for cheaper labor and keep out illegal aliens.

Here is Ron Paul advisor Peter Schiff advocating the abolition of the minimum wage:


Other folks don't think so.

Here is a lengthy rebuttal:



Microsoft Surface reviews...

Surface1Is it the beginning of the end for the personal computer?

Microsoft unveiled its line of tablet computers Monday, called Surface.

The light, compact devices, described as a "tablet that's a great PC--a PC that's a great tablet," is intended to compete with Apple's game-changing iPad.

Surface2The Washington Post pits the iPad and the Surface head to head, doing a side-by-side comparison. But perhaps the most important criterion of the Surface isn't available yet.

"One key point that will help determine how the tablet does in the market has yet to be determined — the price," writes Hayley Tsukayama. 

The Surface's real competition may not be the iPad after all, but Microsoft's own PCs.

CEOBallmerAshlee Vance elaborates in Bloomberg BusinessWeek:

As it does with the Xbox, Microsoft has opted to make the Surface tablets—both hardware and software—on its own. This stands as a huge affront to Microsoft’s longtime PC partners. Making matters worse, the Surface products look far better than anything else the PC makers have shown to date on the tablet front . . . . The keyboard/cover combo is a fantastic idea that immediately makes you question future laptop purchases. That’s yet a further blow against Microsoft’s PC buddies.

 Here's Microsoft's first ad for the device. What do you think?


Online subscription debate

MargaretThe Buffalo News will begin charging those who do not have home delivery subscriptions to the News for digital access to, editor Margaret Sullivan announced today.

Sure, the added revenue from digital subscriptions will help stanch the profit losses the News has endured in recent years. But more importantly, pricing home delivery of the Sunday paper (which includes a free digital subscription) cheaper than a digital subscription alone will hopefully increase the paper's subscription numbers. That, in turn, will help sell more print advertising, which is where the real revenue comes in.

It's similar to the model free newspapers use. Giving away print papers bulks up circulation numbers. Advertisers see those numbers and are willing to buy ads that all those eyeballs will see. The Economist illustrates the concept by describing the advent of penny papers:

NewsiesON THE MORNING of September 3rd 1833 a new kind of newspaper went on sale on the streets of New York. With its mix of crime reports and human-interest stories, the Sun was intended to appeal to a mass audience, and its publisher, Benjamin Day, made it cheap: at one penny, it was one-sixth of the price of most other papers. The most popular newspaper in America at the time, according to Mitchell Stephens, author of “A History of News”, was New York’s Courier and Enquirer, which sold 4,500 copies a day. Day’s new “penny paper” appealed to people who had not bought newspapers before. Within two years the Sun was selling 15,000 copies a day.

In hindsight this was a turning point because it introduced a new business model to the industry. The Sun’s large circulation attracted advertisers, and the resulting revenue enabled Day to keep the price of the newspaper down and its circulation up. Instead of relying mostly on selling copies, newspapers came to depend mostly on advertising. It was a great deal for all concerned: readers got their news cheap, advertisers could reach a large audience easily and newspapers could afford to employ professional reporters instead of relying on amateurs.

Unfortunately, giving away content online has the opposite effect, since digital advertising isn't anywhere near as profitable as print advertising. If anything, it pulls eyeballs away from the print product, which turns off print advertisers.

FrontPageDavid Simon, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, explains part of why charging for online content is important in today's age:

Content matters. And you must find a way, in the brave new world of digitization, to make people pay for that content. If you do this, you still have a product and there is still an industry, a calling, and a career known as professional journalism. If you do not find a way to make people pay for your product, then you are—if you choose to remain in this line of work—delusional.

In the comments section under Sullivan's column today, some folks have said they will gladly pay for the online news they value here. Others have vowed to leave and never come back.

And that was expected.

But as much as any paper hates to lose readers, history has shown that not charging for content actually hastens a decline in readership faster than charging does.

From CJR:

[The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette] has charged online and its daily circulation has fallen just 3.5 percent in the past decade while U.S. papers overall tumbled 16 percent from 2002 to 2009 alone (when Newspaper Association of America numbers stop). The Wall Street Journal has charged from the beginning and its print circulation has stayed roughly even over the past ten years, while overall circulation, including digital subscriptions has actually risen significantly. The New York Times has already reaped tens of millions of dollars a year in incremental revenue by adding its paywall, and now it seems everybody is jumping on board.

Reaching young engineers.

From Business Today:


Ford Motor Co. uses virtual reality technology to test automobile design years before the protoypes are ever even made. Company representatives brought that technology to Erie Community College Tuesday to give about 50 automotive technology students a taste of how it works. Students got to virtually test out a 2013 Ford Fusion, the makers of which relied heavily on the virtual technology when designing it.


API Heat Transfer has gotten its fourth new owner since 2002. Wellspring Capital Management, a New York City private equity firm, acquired the business from another private equity firm, Industrial Growth Partners in San Francisco, Calif. The company employs 178 workers at its Arcade plant and has plants in Germany and China. The Cheektowaga-based company makes industrial heat exchangers.



Penora's Pizza, a Depew pizzeria, and Bella Vista Group, the owner of an office and warehouse facility at Transit Road and Genesee Street, came seeking tax breaks from the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency Tuesday. But with IDAs under increased scrutiny for giving aid to projects of questionable value to economic development, those requests were tabled for further review.


First Niagara Financial Group board member and co-director Carl A. Florio has stepped down from the bank board's audit committee. Florio's decision to leave came after Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis & Co recommended shareholders vote against re-electing him, questioning his independence from management. The two independent proxy advisory firms did not consider Florio an "independent director" by their standards.


A 127-year-old Jamestown company is nearing its final end. Crawford Furniture, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August and ran going-out-of-business sales at its retail locations, has been granted approval by the bankruptcy court to liquidate its remaining assets, including its property and equipment. The hardwood furniture maker's assets will be up for sale through April 19. Whatever is left will go to auction April 21.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Here's a closer look at Ford's virtual reality technology:


Benefitting a little from loss elsewhere.

From Business Today:


Despite bad news for many Yahoo employees, there is good news for the company's East Coast data center here. Yahoo is laying off 14 percent of its workforce, amounting to about 2,000 workers who will be out of jobs. It's the sixth mass layoff in the past four years. But company officials said they will actually be adding workers to its Lockport location, according to State Sen. George D. Maziarz, who said he spoke with the company. Yahoo has not yet disclosed how many jobs might be added.


Shares at Cleveland BioLabs sank dramatically Wednesday after news hit that the company's anti-radiation sickness drug wouldn't be getting funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Share value dropped by 23.85 percent, or 57 cents, to $1.82 per share. The company said it will continue to develop its Protectan 502 drug, will look for new sources of funding and will resubmit an application to the Department of Health and Human Services agency.


GreenFields Continuing Care Community in Lancaster is proceeding with plans to add a new wing for patients with dementia and other memory problems. If the Lancaster Town Board approves site plans at its April 16 meeting, construction at the facility could begin as early as next month. In its first phase of construction, Niagara Lutheran Health System will build four, L-shaped buildings, around a central courtyard, which would hold private apartments for 12 to 15 residents, along with common kitchen areas and living rooms.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Wouldn't it be great if the Beatles had written a jingle for Greenfields? It might sound something like this:


Time runs out for Uniland--again

From Business Today:


A proposal meant to help out Western New York's coal-fired power plants has been left out of the state budget. The proposal would have had the New York Power Authority buy energy from the region's coal plants for three years. Critics said it propped up an outdated, dirty mode of energy, but proponents of the bill said it would provide much-needed help for the region's struggling power plants.


Computer Task Group has landed three new contracts, expanding its reach in the electronic medical records business. Two contracts are with major U.S. health systems, while the third is with one of the largest hospitals in the western United States, the company said. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.


Since the financial crisis hit, the American public has become cynical about the banking industry, to put it mildly. In his annual letter to investors, M&T Bank Corp. Chairman and CEO Robert G. Wilmers calls for the restoration of banking's integrity in order to win back public trust and the industry's good name.


Uniland Development Co. has missed a deadline to hold up its end of the bargain in a deal that landed them $490,000 in federal aid money. But the developer has been given more time to secure a tenant for its Lancaster industrial park and meet job creation requirements. The company has received a series of extensions over the years. The Eastport Commerce Center is located on the corner of Walden Avenue and Pavement Road. The grants it received came through Erie county and the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

What a beautiful morning!


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