Many cell phone owners often receive bogus, unsolicited text messages that inform them that they won a house, car or cash, or that trick them into sending cell phone credits to strangers masquerading as relatives.
It’s a practice that has gone on too long and has caused people stress, not to mention loss of money.
Sen. Cynthia Villar said it was time for government agencies and telecommunication firms to step up efforts to address the “rampant and uncontrollable” proliferation of text scams.
Villar on Wednesday scolded officials for not taking enough action on the matter, pointing out that she and her own foundation had sent numerous complaints to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) but the practice still continues.
She said telecommunication firms, which earned a lot from subscribers through various fees, should protect their customers by putting out television advertisements that would teach them to avoid falling prey to text message swindlers.
With her frustration over the situation, Villar is inclined to support a bill seeking to require the registration of SIM cards to stem their use for criminal or unscrupulous activities.
“It is high time we put a semblance of control over it and stop its further proliferation. Text scams do not only inconvenience us. They also cost the recipients money and may even cause further harm, if we are not vigilant,” she said at the hearing of the Senate public services subcommittee.
The text scammers spare no one, she noted.
Her own foundation, the Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance (Villar Sipag), has also been used by scammers who claim that cell phone owners have won a raffle sponsored by the group and who ask them to shell out a certain amount as fees to claim their prize.
This is just one technique. Other techniques of the scammers include text messages that:
— Masquerade as a text from a relative abroad in which the sender would ask the recipient for cell phone credits, or “load,” to continue the conversation.
— Are disguised as an advisory from telecommunication companies informing the recipient that he or she was accidentally charged a certain amount, and issuing instructions how to reverse this. But the instructions would trick the recipient into sending cell phone credits.
— Are made to appear to be a special offer from telecommunications company that also issues instructions that eventually trick the recipient into losing cell phone credits.
— Appear to be announcements notifying the recipient of winning a raffle from a certain government agency, company or foundation.
In the last scheme, the recipient could be asked to call a number, and he or she would be asked to transfer a certain amount to get the item.
Anonymous text messages could also be used for black propaganda for the forthcoming elections, she noted.
According to Villar, there is a need for substantial action on these text scams because of the alarming increase in the number of victims year after year.
In 2013, 1,179 text scam complaints were filed in the NTC, she said. For the first half of 2014, almost 1,000 text scam complaints were filed.
Villar said many victims come from poor families, whose hopes had been buoyed by claims that they would receive a windfall in exchange for depositing a certain amount of cash.
NTC officials said that even if the agency blocked SIM card use for fraudulent transactions, it was easy for anybody to purchase another prepaid SIM card. A law that would require SIM card registration would help, the officials said.
Villar called on telecommunication firms to undertake an intensive public information campaign, preferably through television advertisements, warning people about text scams.
The NTC’s practice of putting out posters and newspaper advertisements warning about scams was not enough. “You’re making a lot of money out of us, might as well protect us,” the senator said.
So far, telecommunication firms have not done much to protect subscribers who pay a lot for the firms’ services. The firms, according to Villar, have been spending more for their various advocacies. These should include protecting their customers.
“You do a lot of CSR [corporate social responsibility projects], so why don’t you help consumers? Do you want us to fall prey to scams? You don’t care if we’re scammed?” she said.
SAN FRANCISCO — Google is refining its famous logo as it prepares to become a part of a new holding company called Alphabet.
The revised design unveiled Tuesday features the same mix of blue, red, yellow and green that Google has been using throughout its nearly 17-year history, though the hues are slightly different shades.
Google also invented a new typeface called “Product Sans” that is meant to resemble the simple printing in a grade-school book. It will replace a serif typeface that Google has been using in its logo for more than 16 years. The “e” in the company’s name will remain slightly tilted to reflect Google’s sometimes off-kilter thinking.
Although this will be the sixth time that Google has changed its logo since Larry Page and Sergey Brin formed the company, this marks the most noticeable redesign since it dropped an exclamation point that appeared after its name until May 1999.
“I am sure this is going to upset a lot of people because everyone freaks out when a company like this makes a shift like this,” said Wally Krantz, executive creative director at brand consultants Landor. Krantz, though, applauded the change because he believes it gives the company a “fresh” look.
Google is donning the different look as it embarks on a new era.
The Mountain View, California, company is pouring so much money into so many far-flung projects that have little or no connection to its main business of online search and advertising that it’s getting ready to place everything under the Alphabet umbrella.
Under this setup, Google will retain search, YouTube and most of the biggest divisions while smaller operations such as Nest home appliances, life sciences, drone deliveries and venture capital investments will operate as individual companies. All will be overseen by Alphabet, whose CEO will be the Google co-founder Page.
Alphabet hasn’t revealed what its logo will be yet, but the holding company isn’t expected to be officially operating for a few more months.
Google believes its new logo will provide a more versatile identity suited “for a world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices,” the company said in a Tuesday blog post.
The overhaul also will change the appearance of the letter “g” that Google uses as its shorthand logo on the smaller screens of smartphones and other mobile devices.
The “g” will now be capitalized and displayed in color instead of being kept lowercase and white.
A swirl of dots in Google’s colors will also appear when a spoken command for information is being processed or one of the company’s other services is performing a task.
BONN, Germany—Rising temperatures may shift the gender balance of Mediterranean weevils in favor of females, said a study Wednesday into a bizarre consequence of global warming.
Male weevils, its authors found, are more vulnerable to longer droughts.
After a summer drought, weevils rely on rain to soften the soil so they can burrow out of their cool, underground refuges.
Males of the Curculio elephas species tend to come out earlier than females, and when the rain is delayed, more females emerge, said the study in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
As diplomats met in Bonn to thrash out the wording of a world pact on curbing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions, the study served as a reminder that global warming would threaten more than low-lying islands, crops and water sources.
“Climate change affects animal distributions ranges, survival and reproductive performance. However, there are other effects, less obvious, but relevant for population viability; the effects on sex ratio are among them,” said a Royal Society press summary.
Previous studies had shown that global warming could affect embryonic sex determination in reptiles.
“In this paper we show, for the first time, that longer summer drought episodes, such as those predicted for the dry Mediterranean region under climate change, may bias insect population sex ratio,” wrote the study authors.
“We must consider not just the magnitude of the predicted changes in temperature and rainfall, but also the effects on their timing.”
Singapore has the fastest mobile data speeds in the Southeast Asia (SEA) and Oceania region, according to a report by communications technology and services provider Ericsson.
The Ericsson Mobility Report placed Singapore ahead of countries such as Australia and Thailand, which came in second and third respectively. Vietnam came in last among the nine countries surveyed in the region.
The median download speed using mobile data in Singapore was 21,870kbps, which the report noted was boosted by the usage of high-speed LTE networks here.
The median download speed in Australia was 11,190kbps, and in Thailand it was 2,380kbps.
This means that in Singapore and Australia, mobile data speeds are sufficient for consumers using data-intensive applications such as video streaming. Video calls would also be smooth. In Thailand, however, users may face lag when using such applications.
Singapore’s median mobile data speed was also faster than that in South Korea, where the median speed was less than 10,000kbps, and in Japan, where the median speed was less than 5,000kbps.
The analysis was conducted on data gathered from Ookla’s Speedtest.net, which is a tool consumers can use to test the speed of their Internet connections. The report, released in June, did not say how many people were surveyed.
The report also highlighted trends in smartphone application usage. In Singapore and Malaysia, the popular messaging service WhatsApp was the most used smartphone app, while in Indonesia and Thailand, users turned to messaging services BlackBerry Messenger and Line respectively.
Analysts The Straits Times spoke to said that it was no surprise that Singapore came out tops.
Mr. Dustin Kehoe, Asia-Pacific head of telecommunications practice at International Data Corporation, said that the Republic’s compact city-state profile gives it an advantage when it comes to mobile data speeds.
He said: “It is no surprise that mobile data speeds in Singapore are the top in the region. Singapore is a very tech-savvy country and is more built-up, as compared with countries like Australia and Malaysia, which have more rural areas.
“So logistically, it is easier to be the first to deploy new software and technologies.”
However, Kehoe cautioned that mobile network operators need to be on the ball when it comes to upgrading and managing their networks, as customer data usage is increasing rapidly with the popularity of video streaming and data-heavy applications.
One heavy mobile data user who is thankful for a speedy data connection is Ms. Au Yeong Yeen Seen, 26.
The senior associate at SGX uses her smartphone to watch YouTube videos when she commutes.
She said: “It’s rare that videos pause or lag. It is only at places like Bugis and Outram MRT, the underground stations, that the videos will sometimes buffer.”
GENEVA—Two years after finding the elusive Higgs boson “God particle,” physicists now know a little bit more about how it acts. And it acts just like they thought it would.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN, said Tuesday that two experiments that previously helped confirm the particle have produced the best precision yet on its production, decay and interaction with other particles.
The results largely match with the predictions of the Standard Model, which explains how much of the universe works at the subatomic level. CERN and other physicists are trying to establish the accuracy of that model.
CERN’s Large Hadron Collider was instrumental in the discovery of the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that had long been theorized but never confirmed until 2013.
SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft’s new Windows 10 system offers more personalization than before, but it also collects more data than people might be used to on PCs, from contacts and appointments to their physical location and even Wi-Fi passwords.
The information is used by Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-activated digital assistant, and other new features that try to be helpful by remembering a user’s likes and habits. Apple and Google have developed similar services for smartphones in recent years. Microsoft’s new features are a big part of its strategy to make Windows more relevant in a world where people use multiple devices throughout the day.
Most of these features get turned on when you set up Windows 10 with the “Get going fast” option. But you can take back control and disable features in the settings. Here are some examples:
A feature called Wi-Fi Sense promises to make it easy for users and their friends to connect with new Wi-Fi networks. It lets Windows 10 computers log in automatically to known networks, so your friends don’t have to ask for the password when they visit.
Despite some initial reports, Wi-Fi Sense doesn’t hand over your password to all your friends. Instead it stores your password online in an encrypted form. It then provides that encrypted code to your friend’s Windows 10 device so it can automatically log into your network. Your friends never actually see the password, and Microsoft says your friends won’t get access to other computers or files on the network.
Even so, critics say the feature shares too freely, as you can’t choose which friends to share with — only with your full list of friends or contacts on Facebook, Outlook.com or Skype. To disable this, open the “Settings” menu in Windows 10, select “Network & Internet” and click on “Manage Wi-Fi Settings.” You can uncheck groups you don’t want to share with. You can also choose not to share access to a particular network when you log in for the first time; just uncheck the box next to “Share network with my contacts.”
But if you let friends manually log into your network by giving them your password, be aware they might be able to share the password via Wi-Fi Sense with their friends. You can ask them not to, or completely block Wi-Fi Sense by changing your Wi-Fi network’s name to include the underscore followed by these characters: optout.
Cortana knows you
Many people are used to voice-activated services like Apple’s Siri or “OK Google” on smartphones and tablets. Windows 10 brings Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, to desktops and laptops. Cortana can answer questions, remind you of appointments and even recommend nearby restaurants. But to do that, Cortana uploads and saves information about your Web browsing, search queries and location, as well as some details from your messages, contacts and calendar.
Microsoft says it doesn’t use the Cortana personalization to target ads. Nor will it use your emails, chats or personal files for advertising. But it does tailor ads to websites visited with its Edge browser and queries made on its Bing search engine, including queries through Cortana. (Google’s browser and search engine do this, too.)
You can review what Cortana knows about you: Click on the search field in the lower left of your screen, then click the “Notebook” icon and select “About Me” to edit or delete individual items. If you want to turn Cortana off, open “Notebook,” click on “Settings” and toggle Cortana to “Off.” That clears information stored on the device, but not the data uploaded to Microsoft’s servers. To get to that, open “Notebook,” choose “Settings” and click “Manage what Cortana knows about me in the cloud.”
More privacy settings
Anyone concerned about privacy should take a run through the “Privacy” section of the Windows 10 “Settings” menu. This is different from the “Settings” menu for Cortana. You find it by clicking on the Windows icon in the lower left of your screen.
Windows 10 assigns each user on each device a unique “advertising ID,” which lets app developers track how each person uses the device and apps. If that bothers you, you’ll find the button to turn it off by going to “Settings” and opening the “Privacy” section. You might have to hit the back arrow at the top left if you’re already in another section. Click on “General” in the left-hand column to turn off advertising ID. You might still get ads, but they won’t be tailored to you.
Similarly, open “Privacy” and click on “Location” to turn off location-tracking or clear the history of where you’ve traveled with your laptop, tablet or Windows phone.
Another heading under “Privacy” has the innocuous title of “Other devices.” That’s where you can turn off the ability to “Sync with devices.” That feature lets apps on your device share information with things like store-tracking beacons, which send you ads as you walk nearby. If that sounds creepy, turn it off.
Some critics complain that Microsoft hasn’t been more up front about all the ways Windows 10 collects user information. But you can find most of them by scrolling through the nooks and crannies of the “Settings” menu. That’s a good thing to do with any new software program or Internet service. It’s also good to go back there from time to time to make sure the settings match your comfort level.
WASHINGTON — Earth’s first big predatory monster was a weird water bug as big as Tom Cruise, newly found fossils show.
Almost half a billion years ago, way before the dinosaurs roamed, Earth’s dominant large predator was a sea scorpion that grew to 5 feet 7 inches (170 centimeters), with a dozen claw arms sprouting from its head and a spike tail, according to a new study.
Scientists found signs of these new monsters of the prehistoric deep in Iowa, of all places.
Geologists at the Iowa Geological Survey found 150 pieces of fossils about 60 feet (18 meters) under the Upper Iowa River, part of which had to be temporarily dammed to allow them to collect the specimens. Then scientists at Yale University determined they were a new species from about 460 million years ago, when Iowa was under an ocean
Then, all the action was in the sea and it was pretty small scale, said James Lamsdell of Yale, lead author of the study published Monday in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.
“This is the first real big predator,” Lamsdell said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be swimming with it. There’s something about bugs. When they’re a certain size, they shouldn’t be allowed to get bigger.”
Technically, this creature — named Pentecopterus decorahensis, after an ancient Greek warship — is not a bug by science definitions, Lamsdell said. It’s part of the eurypterid family, which are basically sea scorpions.
Those type of creatures “are really cool,” said Joe Hannibal, curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Hannibal wasn’t part of the study, but praised it for being well done, adding “this species is not particularly bizarre — for a eurypterid.”
Unlike modern land scorpions, this creature’s tail didn’t sting. It was used more for balance and in swimming, but half this creature’s length was tail, Lamsdell said.
There were larger sea scorpions half way around the world at the same time but those were more bottom feeders instead of dominant predators, he said.
Lamsdell could tell by the way the many arms come out of the elongated head how this creature grabbed prey and pushed it to its mouth.
“It was obviously a very aggressive animal,” Lamsdell said. “It was a big angry bug.”
SAN FRANCISCO, United States—Google on Monday broke down the wall between Android smart watches and iPhones, taking on Apple Watch on its home turf.
A version of Android Wear smart watch software tailored for Apple’s mobile operating system made its debut, paired for now only with LG Watch Urbane, according to a Google blog post.
“Today, Android Wear for iOS works with the LG Watch Urbane,” Google said.
“All future Android Wear watches, including those from Huawei, Asus, and Motorola will also support iOS, so stay tuned for more.”
Android Wear was modified to work with iPhone 5 models or newer powered by the latest versions of Apple’s mobile device operating system, according to Google.
The move puts Android-powered smart watches in position to compete with Apple Watch to be the computing device strapped to the wrists of iPhone owners.
Android Wear previously worked only with the Google-backed mobile operating system.
Apple news coming
International Data Corporation last week said that Apple’s freshly launched smart watch was a hot commodity in the second quarter of this year.
Apple Watch was hot on the heels of activity tracker Fitbit, the top device in the “wearable computing” market, according to IDC estimates. Apple has not released official smart watch sales figures.
Apple shipped 3.6 million smart watches to rank second behind Fitbit, which shipped 4.4 million units during the second quarter of this year, according to IDC.
Overall shipments of wearable computing devices leaped 223 percent to 18.1 million from the 5.6 million units shipped in the second quarter last year, IDC calculated.
“Anytime Apple enters a new market, not only does it draw attention to itself, but to the market as a whole,” IDC wearables team manager Ramon Llamas said in a note released with the figures.
Apple is set to host a September 9 media event in San Francisco, hinting that Siri virtual assistant software in its mobile devices will play a role.
In trademark enigmatic style, the emailed invitations provided little more than the time and place of the event. Beneath graphics based on the Apple logo was written “Hey Siri, give us a hint.”
The timing of the Apple event did not come as a surprise since the California-based company is known to host September events to announce iPhone updates.
Rumors about the coming event included the possibility of new iPhone models and news about Apple TV set-top boxes.
Industry trackers expect Apple to unveil new generation big-screen iPhone 6 models.
Improvements are likely to include faster processing power and improved camera capabilities along with screens that can distinguish light touches from hard presses for more nuanced controls.
Apple could also use the event to tout milestones including how well its smart watch is selling.
Leading mobile services provider Smart Communications has unveiled its unbeatable postpaid offers for the much anticipated Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, aimed at giving you a much bigger Smart Life experience.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is available under the fully consumable and customizable All-In Plan 1200, with a one-time cash-out of P15,576 or P649 per month via credit card under a contract of 24 months.
On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Edge Plus is available under the feature-packed Surf Plus Plan 1999 under a contract of 24 months, with a one-time cash-out of P7,500.
Beyond Cutting-edge technology
“Both the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus are the embodiment of style-meets-function-meets-cutting-edge technology, and you can make the most of their amazing features only with the country’s biggest and most advanced network,” said Kathy Carag, Smart Postpaid marketing head.
“For sure, with these latest flagship devices, you can experience the Smart Life and enjoy the widest breadth of mobile content and offers that only our robust network can deliver – from your choice of apps, games, music, movies and more all at your fingertips.”
Galaxy Note 5 at All-In Plan 1200
With All-In Plan 1200, you can maximize the features of the Galaxy Note 5 by choosing from over 30 Flexibundles reflecting your passion, lifestyle and communication needs.
For example, you can consume your All-In Plan 1200 by subscribing to Big Bytes 799 to enjoy 4.5GB data for all your surfing needs, as well as Trinet Plus 399, which gives you 500 minutes of calls to Smart, Sun, TNT and PLDT landline, and 2000 texts to all networks.
Galaxy S6 Edge Plus at Surf Plus Plan 1999
On the other hand, you can optimize your Galaxy S6 Edge Plus with Surf Plus Plan 1999, which packs a supersized 9GB of data allowance, 150 minutes of calls and 200 texts to all networks, plus your choice of free app every month!
As an added perk, all new and recontracting subscribers for Plans 799 and above get a month’s subscription to the Smart Life Entertainment Bundle 299 for free. This gives them an additional of data for streaming their favorite movies and TV shows on Fox via Viewstream or iFlix, plus access to a host of apps like YouTube, Snapchat, Google, FB Messenger. The bundle also comes with 50 minutes of calls to Smart and TNT; and 500 texts to all networks – on top of the inclusions of their existing plan.
Tens of thousands of new Smart Postpaid subscribers
Smart expects these latest Samsung devices to sustain its remarkable growth in the first half of the year as tens of thousands of new subscribers signed up to enjoy Smart Postpaid’s attractive device and content bundles, backed by the country’s widest LTE network.
Unveiled during Samsung’s Unpacked Event at the New York Lincoln Center last Aug.13, both the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus feature a gorgeous 5.7-inch Quad High Definition screen, a 16-megapixel rear and 5-megapixel front camera, Dual-SIM feature and a 64-bit Octa-Core processor running the latest Android operating system Lollipop.
Be the first to get hold of the Samsung Note 5 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus by signing up at http://smart.com.ph/postpaid/phones/SamsungNote5.
To stay updated on the latest Smart Postpaid offers, log on to smart.com.ph and follow Smart’s official accounts on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SmartCommunications) and Twitter (@SMARTCares) for updates. ADVT.
WASHINGTON — As many as nine out of 10 of the world’s seabirds likely have pieces of plastic in their guts, a new study estimates.
Previously, scientists figured about 29 percent of seabirds had swallowed plastic, based on older studies. An Australian team of scientists who have studied birds and marine debris for decades used computer models to update those figures, calculating that far more seabirds are affected, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“It’s pretty astronomical,” said study co-author Denise Hardesty, senior research scientist at the Australian federal science agency. She said the problem with plastics in the ocean is increasing as the world makes more of the stuff. “In the next 11 years we will make as much plastic as has been made since industrial plastic production began in the 1950s.”
She combined computer simulations of locations of the garbage and the birds, as well as their eating habits, to see where the worst problems are.
Hardesty’s work found that the biggest problem strangely isn’t where there’s the most garbage, such as the infamous garbage patch in the central north Pacific Ocean. Instead it’s where there’s the greatest number of different species, especially in the southern hemisphere near Australia and New Zealand.
Areas around North America and Europe are better off, she said. By reducing plastic pellets, Europe is even seeing fewer of those plastic bits in one key bird, the northern fulmar, she said. Some species of albatross and shearwaters seem to be the most prone to eating plastic pieces.
Birds mistake plastic bits for fish eggs, so “they think they’re getting a proper meal but they’re really getting a plastic meal,” Hardesty said.
Usually it’s incredibly tiny pieces of plastic, but Hardesty has seen far bigger things, such as an entire glow stick and three balloons in a single short-tailed shearwater bird.
“I have seen everything from cigarette lighters … to bottle caps to model cars. I’ve found toys,” Hardesty said.
And it’s only likely to get worse. By 2050, 99 percent of seabirds will have plastic in them, Hardesty’s computer model forecast. That prediction “seems astonishingly high, but probably not unrealistic,” said American University environmental scientist Kiho Kim, who wasn’t part of the study but praised it.