This Week in Web: February 15-21, 2016

this week in web 7

This Week in Web: February 15-21, 2016

Web-worthy tech news this week tells us that it is time to shine our boots, saddle our horses, and make our reservations for Drupal-focused TexasCamp!  Yee-haw.  Next, Facebook wants to help non-profits succeed, and wants to help businesses advertise even more.  If you have an old-school email address, you can get hip by Gmailifying your account.  Dreams of avoiding long waits at government offices may come true with Skype.  Also, do not let your phone battery die if you want to drive your Volvo home.  And last, there is a fuzzy math mystery around the world’s cheapest smartphone.

Have y’all signed up?

LevelTen Interactive is excited to be hosting the first TexasCamp 2016 in Dallas on April 1 & 2, where you can network and learn with Drupal web developers from all over the world.  This camp does not include roasting marshmallows or sleeping under the stars.  No tent is required.  Rather, the agenda will include a full day of presentations, an awesome after-hours party, and another day of session tracks at various levels of expertise, on topics such as Front-end & Design, DevOps/SysAdmin, Development and Site Building, Beginner/Intro to Drupal, Business & Open Source, and more.  There is still plenty of time to register, submit session proposals, and/or become a sponsor.  To sign-up and for more information, please visit the website.

How-to non-profit on Facebook

Facebook introduced a new site this week, Facebook for Nonprofits, to help organizations optimize their impact using the social network.  Facebook Social Good Marketing Manager Joanne Sprague blogged, “This is just the next step in our efforts to build tools and products to empower our global community to do even more good on Facebook.”  The site walks non-profit organizations step-by-step through page creation and optimization, raising awareness, activating supporters, and raising funds.  It also outlines case examples, such as UNICEF, the Malala Fund, and Mercy Corps, which have experienced success on Facebook.

How-to annoy customers on Facebook

In less philanthropic Facebook news, TechCrunch has reported that Facebook may soon allow businesses to advertise via Messenger.  To keep it less slightly less spammy, businesses will only be able to send ads to users after engaging in a chat, which must first be initiated by the user.  So, customers who contact a company about a recent order may then receive follow-on ads.  The tricky part is that Facebook has also enabled custom URLs that businesses can place anywhere (including outside of Facebook) for customers to initiate a Messenger chat, inadvertently giving the company permission to start sending advertisements.  The feature has not yet launched, and we can hope it never does.

“Gmailify” yourself

I recently gave a personal email address to a customer service agent.  He giggled and said, “You still have Hotmail?”  Yep, I have had the address forever.  It is where people from way-back-when know to find me.  And it is a pain to switch to a new one.  (I didn’t admit that I still have an @AOL address.)  Google’s new feature “Gmailify” lets users enjoy the high-speed features of Gmail without changing their old address.  It gives users the option to check @hotmail (or @yahoo or @outlook) within Gmail’s mobile app and webmail site, including managing the account just as if they were hosted on Google’s servers.  Gmailify lets users make use of Gmail’s spam filters, Google Now integrations, and Inbox organization features.  To Gmailify your email, you will need to sign into your external accounts in a Gmail app, and then enable the feature.  It is currently compatible with Yahoo and Microsoft email addresses only, but Google says more providers will be added soon.

Skyping it in

Everyone dreads the long lines at the DMV and city hall.  Imagine being able to take care of those displeasing tasks via Skype.  According to Business Insider, Microsoft is trying to make it happen in India by piloting a program that will integrate India’s national identity system Aadhar (similar to American Social Security numbers) with citizens’ Skype accounts.  Being able to authenticate users’ identities via Skype could eliminate travel and wait times for transactions such as permits, licenses, and government bills.  But it also means that Microsoft will know an awful lot about people.  Microsoft is considering fingerprint or iris scanners to ensure that no one is stealing users’ identities, but with almost a billion Indian citizens currently enrolled in Aadhar, this would be a monumental task.  Never pulling number 476 on my 1-hour lunch break, when they are ‘now serving’ number 032 would be nothing short of brilliant, and totally worth sharing my identity with Microsoft.

Fobless entry

As a person who regularly misplaces my phone, has dropped it into water more than once, and never has enough charging cords in the right places to keep it on until the end of the day, Volvo’s new keyless technology would force me to change my ways, or walk a lot more.  Starting this year, Volvo wants to get rid of keys and key fobs, and use their AppKey to control locks and ignition using smartphone Bluetooth connections.  AppKey will also allow you to lend out virtual keys to anyone who has the app installed on their phone.  This could be handy for car rental and car share companies, as well as households who share a vehicle.  Volvo has not yet detailed what kind of built-in security protections the AppKey will include.

Suspiciously cheap.

With 4 bucks in your pocket, you could get a cheap burger or 4 lotto tickets.  Or, if you were a lucky Indian who got to the website before it crashed and sold-out, a Freedom 251 smartphone.  Indian start-up company Ringing Bells started selling the “world’s cheapest” Android phone for 251 rupees (about $4) this week.  Their pre-order of 2.5 million phones was reportedly maxed out, and that they received more than 50 million registrations.  Their website now reads, “We are humble and extremely grateful for your overwhelming response and trust. Respectfully this is to advice that the response far exceeds the number that we had expected and therefore we are now closing the invitation to bookings in this phase 1.”  How can a company sell a smartphone, whose components alone cost far more than $4, so inexpensively?  The company is reportedly importing parts from China, and assembling them in India.  Hindustantimes theorizes that the price is subsidized by the government, given the prime minister’s “Made in India” tax-break initiative, and the many government-backed apps that come pre-installed.  Might government-backed spyware also come pre-installed?  And there have been reports that Ringing Bells did not make these phones at all, rather barely disguised them by covering other companies’ logos with a smear of white paint.  The numbers in this scam-ish scheme are not adding up!

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