(CNN) — They were 31 characters read, and retweeted, around the world.
If any doubts lingered over Twitter’s capacity to break news first, the overnight raids launched by U.S. forces on Syria on Tuesday night offered another case study of what the microblogging site does best.
Well before the first media accounts of the attack on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Abdulkader Hariri, a Twitter user in the town, tweeted this:
“Breaking: Huge explosions shook the city in what might be the beginning of US airstrikes on ISIS HQs in Raqqa”
Breaking: Huge explosions shook the city in what might be the beginning of US airstrikes on ISIS HQs in Raqqa
— Abdulkader Hariri (@3bdUlkaed6r) September 23, 2014
Hariri is believed to be the first person to report on the first strikes the United States carried out against ISIS inside Syria.
He posted his tweet shortly after 9 p.m. — almost 30 minutes before Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby announced the operation to the world.
“US military & partner nation forces have begun striking ISIL targets in Syria using mix of fighters, bombers and Tomahawk missiles.”
US military & partner nation forces have begun striking ISIL targets in Syria using mix of fighters, bombers and Tomahawk missiles.
— Rear Adm. John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) September 23, 2014
In this respect, Hariri’s tweet recalls the U.S. raid on Abbottabad in Pakistan in May 2011 in which Osama bin Laden was killed — and one Twitter user unknowingly reported details.
Some of the first public accounts of the military operation that killed the terrorist leader came in the form of tweets from Sohaib Athar, a 33-year-old IT consultant.
“Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event),” the tweet said.
Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).
— Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual) May 1, 2011
CNN tried to reach Hariri early Wednesday morning, but was unsuccessful. In several subsequent posts, he live-tweeted the operation.
(CNN) — NASA says its latest Mars-exploring spacecraft is on track to fire up its thrusters and enter orbit this Sunday night, completing a 10-month journey of 442 million miles.
NASA’s MAVEN craft will live up to its formal name — the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft — by helping scientists figure out how ancient Mars changed so dramatically into the planet we know today.
It will be the first mission devoted to studying the upper Martian atmosphere as a key to understanding the history of Mars’ climate, water and habitability.
“The evidence shows that the Mars atmosphere today is a cold, dry environment, one where liquid water really can’t exist in a stable state,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator, during a mission preview briefing Wednesday at NASA headquarters in Washington. “But it also tells us when we look at older surfaces, that the ancient surfaces had liquid water flowing over it.”
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So where did the planet’s water and carbon dioxide go?
Jakosky said MAVEN will help unravel that mystery by using its scientific instruments to measure the composition and escape of gases in the Martian atmosphere.
MAVEN will study the top of the atmosphere to determine the extent to which losing gas to space might have been the driving mechanism behind climate change, Jakosky said.
Before MAVEN can begin its year of exploration, it has to be inserted into orbit around Mars. That is set to happen at about 10 p.m. ET September 21. The craft’s six thruster engines will fire and burn for 33 minutes to slow the spacecraft down so it can get pulled into orbit around Mars.
MAVEN will have company out near Mars, manmade and otherwise.
India’s first mission to the Red Planet, the Mars Orbiter Mission, is set to arrive a few days after MAVEN does. The director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, Jim Green, says the United States and India are interested in cooperating as their crafts gather data about the planet.
There’s a visitor of the cosmic kind, too.
Comet Sliding Spring, which was discovered last year, will be closest to Mars about four weeks after MAVEN arrives.
The comet is going to miss Mars by about 81,000 miles, said Jakosky.
“I’m told that the odds of having an approach that close to Mars are about one-in-a-million years,” he said, adding that dust from the comet carries only a “relatively minimal” risk to the spacecraft.
MAVEN will take advantage of the rare flyby by observing the comet itself, as well as its effect on the Martian atmosphere.
(CNN) — As millions of people get their hands on the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus on Friday, many will no doubt be looking for new apps that take advantage of the new phones’ capabilities.
Chief among them is a bigger screen. The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch display, while the 6 Plus checks in at a whopping 5.5 inches.
But they’ll also have better graphics and faster processors, as well as features that give app developers freedoms they’ve never had before.
For the first time, Apple is letting developers create widgets, mini-programs that are often designed to be quick and easy to use. They can tinker with the iPhone’s keyboard for the first time as well, giving iOS users access to some apps that Android users have enjoyed for the past couple of years.
A slate of those keyboard tools are ready to go now. But the front-runners in categories from productivity tools to photography tools to games are also raring to go.
Here’s a look at some must-have apps for the new phones.
Are there other apps you’re excited about, or already enjoying? Let us know in the comments.
(CNN) — You can’t get a new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus until Friday, but iOS 8, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, goes live on Wednesday.
The free download will be available to anyone with an iPhone 4S, 5, 5C or 5S.
IOS 8 isn’t the radical upgrade that iOS 7 was, but it has a handful of new features that you’re bound to enjoy. Here’s a look at a few of our favorites. (Is there another feature you’re looking forward to using? Let us know in the comments.)
When Apple’s Mac operating system, OS X Yosemite, is released, probably in late October, it will pair with iOS 8 for the tightest integration ever between devices.
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Users will be able to do things like answer phone calls on their laptop, receive texts on a desktop computer and move a document in progress from an iPhone to an iPad to a computer with a single swipe.
That feature, called Handoff, works with apps including Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar and Contacts.
Until now, Apple has kept strict controls on how apps — other than its own — appear on the iPhone and iPad. Basically, they get a tiny, uniformly sized box for each app, and that’s that. But in iOS 8, it has given developers the ability to create widgets for the devices.
Now, they’ll be able to create simple, standalone tools for things like checking the weather or monitoring data usage. But the function, which has long been available on Android devices, will be limited to the “Today” screen under the device’s Notification Center.
Apple says iOS 8 brings the biggest changes to the system’s keyboard since the iPhone was introduced.
For one, Apple will begin allowing third-party typing apps, so tools like Swype, the finger-dragging system popular on Android, will be coming soon.
The system’s native typing system will get some tweaks too, largely in the form of QuickType, a Google-style predictive text system. The system will predict the next word you want to type based on what you’ve written in the past and let you add the entire word with a single tap. Its predictions will change based on the people you’re communicating with and the format you’re using (say, email vs. text).
What’s that song?
Siri is now integrated with Shazam, an app that recognizes music and other media playing around it.
iOS 8 users will be able to simply ask Siri “what song is playing?” and get everyone’s favorite digital assistant’s best guess.
Apple wants you to have one big happy iPhone and iPad-using family.
In the new system, up to six people will be able to share purchases from iTunes, iBook and the App Store without having to share a single account.
Family Sharing also automatically creates a family photo album, letting anyone on the plan share to it.
There’s a shared family calendar so anyone (OK, let’s face it, so Mom …) can keep everyone abreast of plans and an “ask to buy” function that automatically pings parents, letting them give or withhold permission when a child tries to buy something from Apple.
(CNN) — After Tuesday’s unveiling of two new iPhones and a heavily anticipated smartwatch, Apple gave press and special guests (including models, fashion bloggers and Gwen Stefani) some supervised hands-on time with the gadgets. Here are our first impressions of the Apple Watch.
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It appears Apple is still ironing out the details of its new smartwatch, which is scheduled to be available early next year.
In the large white showroom Apple custom built for the event, rows of iPhone 6s and Apple Watches were on display. While everyone was welcome to pick up and test the phones, interaction with the watches was carefully controlled. The available demo units ran a prerecorded loop of screens and features, so there was no real testing of the touch screen, buttons, dials or user interface. Apple employees put them on people’s wrists and removed them. (They wore working versions of the watch and demonstrated a few features.)
The iPhone evolved
The company is still mum on many of the device’s specs, including memory, battery life and screen resolution. The exact differences between the low-, middle- and high-end watches are also still blurry. Behind the scenes, the company is likely rushing to iron out any issues with the entirely new operating system and hardware.
One thing we can start judging is looks. Full disclosure: I have dainty wrists. I have tried on many smartwatches and, so far, the straps and watch faces have all been cartoonishly large and heavy.
Apple has always focused heavily on the design of its products, and that legacy really shows with the Apple Watch. There are a surprising number of options. There are three versions of the square watch face, each with its own color selection (including an actual 18 karat gold enclosure). All are available in two sizes (the small is 38mm and the large is 42mm) and there are six strap styles.
When I tried on the smaller size, it actually fit just like a somewhat oversized but normal watch. It seemed lightweight enough to wear all day and it was curved to be flush against my wrist (necessary for the heartbeat sensors on the back to work). The sportier plastic bands might be useful for workouts, but they look a little cheap. The nice metal and leather straps are on par with what you’d find on a similarly priced watch.
At a glance, there is a chance someone might mistake an Apple Watch for a regular timepiece. Once you look closer, it’s obvious the square screen is not a real watch face. No matter how cool the features, that could be a turn-off for many potential customers.
A new shorthand
This is not a wrist phone. You can’t write emails on it. If you want to have in-depth communications, you’ll need to use your iPhone (don’t worry, it’s already in your pocket because you have to have it for many of the watch’s features).
The size of the watch face makes using a full keyboard hard if not impossible (no apps with a keyboard were shown, but that doesn’t mean one can’t pop up later). To communicate from your wrist, you dictate messages to the watch or use it as a walkie-talkie to chat with another Apple Watch wearer.
Apple is really hoping people will choose to communicate using what it calls Digital Touch, a combination of drawings and vibrations. You can doodle with your fingertip, tap out a special series of vibrations or send your actual heartbeat. This shorthand could become the next Emoji, or it could be Apple’s Poke: something fun people do for a while before forgetting about it.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and other Apple employees repeatedly used the word “intimate” to describe the watch’s communication features. Perhaps that’s because only someone you know intimately will have any clue what you mean when you send a line drawing of an octopus and the bass line to “Under Pressure.”
Apple would not disclose the battery life of the watch. That could mean the company is trying to downplay the short battery life or that it is still working on the technical details and hopes to improve it before the release date. During a demo, an Apple employee said the company expected people to charge their watches every night.
One way it saves power is by only turning on the display when you lift your wrist to glance at it. But it’s still a full-color screen with multiple sensors. Without a major leap in battery technology, more than half a day is still a lot to hope for from a smartwatch.
The device does not charge wirelessly. It needs to physically connect to a large circular charger that attaches via magnets to the back of the watch face, much like the current MacBook MagSafe cords do. That charger has a wire that plugs into a wall.
It is an all new proprietary charger. While the magnets might make plugging the watch in “easier in the dark” as Apple promises, it also means adding yet another cord to your power strip. And if nightly charging is necessary, that means your charger goes on every overnight trip.
Too soon to judge
There is still much we don’t know about the Apple Watch. To make any reasonable guess about its fate, we would need to navigate the operating system, use the watch’s touch screen (which differentiates between a tap and a push), and test the digital crown (a knob) on the side. Cook said the time was incredibly accurate, but how about the various fitness measurements and heartbeat?
Then there’s the demand question. Are consumers really clamoring for a notification screen, credit card and fitness tracker on their wrist, especially one that’s dependent on having an iPhone nearby? Smartphones can do many of these exact same things (especially with the iPhone’s improved fitness tracking features).
After the legions of Apple fans and early adopters slip them on, will regular people swap out their Casio for an Apple Watch?
(CNN) — Ariel Adams loves watches.
He owns more than a hundred of them, sometimes changing into a different watch multiple times a day. He has even turned his horological passion into a full-time job reviewing watches.
Naturally, he is very excited for Apple’s latest invention.
“As soon as the Apple Watch is available I will be adding it into my life, but in addition to mechanical watches,” said Adams. “I will more than likely have to wear one on each wrist.”
Unfortunately for Apple, most people will only wear one watch. The question is, will they choose the Apple Watch over a classic timepiece?
After three years of development, Apple finally gave the world a look at its new smartwatch on Tuesday. It won’t be available until early next year, but the design is final. Whatever the reviews, it’s guaranteed that Apple fans will camp out in line for one, and early-adopters and watch lovers like Adams will gladly drop $ 349 to slip it on.
But to succeed, the Apple Watch will also have to appeal to regular people as a fashion accessory. The company has hired and collaborated with big names from the fashion industry, including watch designers like Marc Newson, Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts and Yves Saint Laurent’s Paul Deneve. Those fashion bona fides will help Apple’s watch appeal to people who see the item as a fashion statement.
Traditional watches are big business. Last year, watches were an $ 8.3 billion industry in the U.S., according to Euromonitor. Most watches sold are sub-$ 150 quartz watches, but $ 1,000 and up luxury mechanical watches from brands like Rolex, Omega and Louis Vuitton have been surging in popularity.
“Watches, unlike other consumer electronics, have existed for hundreds of years as accessories and fashion pieces,” said Tim Barrett, a research analyst at Euromonitor.
The smartwatch industry is a relative newborn. Only 750,000 smartwatches were sold in the U.S. in 2013, compared to 123 million smartphones and 32 million regular watches, according Barrett. So far, the most popular smartwatch is the Pebble, which got its start on Kickstarter. Smartwatches from companies like Samsung, Sony and LG have been plagued by clunky, large screens and glitchy software.
“Apple is definitely in the business of making markets as opposed to breaking into them, and this market has yet to be made,” said Barrett.
The heart of the Apple Watch is a square touchscreen with rounded corners that comes in different metal finishes, including 18 carat gold. The watch face fits on classic watch straps that come in a range of styles, from sporty and colorful to high-end leather with metal clasps. The face of the watch is customizable and can display the time in a number of analog or digital designs. The final product is a typically Apple design: clean with a kick of personality.
“I don’t think it will replace the traditional timepiece, but I do think it is the most aesthetically pleasing wearable that has come to market to date,” said Eugene Tong, style director at Details magazine. “I would wear it, but probably not every day.”
Apple has smartly included styles and a smaller watch face size to appeal specifically to women, a group mostly shut out by the gigantic smartwatch screens already on the market.
“Right now in fashion, a lot of women are dressing down, more casually and simply,” said Danielle Prescod, fashion editor for Elle.com. “There is a movement happening toward ‘normcore.’ … Something like the Apple watch, that looks great but also has a purpose, is perfect for this trend.”
Perscod doesn’t usually wear watches, but said she would consider this one.
“The good thing about the Apple watch is that it’s super buzzy right now so people will notice it without needing a ton of other accessories that might try to compete for the spotlight,” said Perscod.
No matter how useful it is, once a wearable device is written off as un-cool, it marks the wearer as dorky. Not everyone believes the Apple Watch can avoid the stigma of a Bluetooth headset — or even Google Glass.
“The Apple Watch is the ultimate in geek chic, designed to look like a watch, but it leaves something to be desired when it comes to reflecting personal style,” said Tyson White, vice president of product at Nixon, a trendy California watch company. It “will certainly raise people’s expectations about what a watch can do. … But it appears to compete more with the likes of Fitbit, Fuel band and other smartwatch offerings, more so than traditional watches.”
Beyond looks, Apple will also have to overcome a limited battery life and dependence on the iPhone. But if any technology company has a chance of stealing precious wrist real estate from established watch companies, it’s Apple.
(CNN) — The long-anticipated Apple smartwatch became a reality this week when the tech giant unveiled its entry into the growing wearable-tech field.
The Apple Watch, which comes in three styles and two sizes with multiple options for colors and wristbands, was expected to energize a market that’s been slow to catch on as smartwatches from competitors such as Samsung, Sony, LG and Pebble rolled out over the past two years.
More than just a tiny smartphone, the Apple Watch, which hits the market early next year, packs a ton of watch-specific features. It has a “crown” knob to control scrolling and zoom without having to touch the screen, silent pulse notifications, a slate of health and fitness apps and compatibility with Apple’s new Apple Pay app, which lets users scan and pay card-free at participating stores.
But there are also questions.
The company is still mum on many of the device’s specifications, including memory, screen resolution and — most crucially — battery life. The exact differences between the low-, middle- and high-end watches are also still blurry.
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The watch must be tethered to an iPhone — some observers had hoped for a standalone device — and its $ 350 price tag is more than many were expecting.
So did the company do enough to make Apple Watch a breakthrough device that will shake up the gadget market the way its iPod, iPhone and iPad did? Many analysts said they think so.
“The Apple Watch defines the category in ways that other competitors will now have to work furiously to catch up to,” said James McQuivey, a tech analyst at Forrester Research. “In classic Apple style, the company has introduced a new interface — the digital crown along with a tap and touch capable surface — that will make Apple’s watch experience significantly easier to use than anybody else’s.”
While many competitors have released a single smartwatch, sometimes in designs that have been panned for being bulky and unfashionable, Apple’s trademark attention to design could make a difference, said Carolina Milanesi, chief researcher at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.
That’s true, she said, even if the features Apple showcased won’t come close to making a smartphone unnecessary.
“I do think smartwatches are still a nice-to-have versus a must-have — more a convenience than a necessity, which is why appealing more from a style perspective might win more users in the short term,” she said.
Whether that pushes competitors in the same direction remains to be seen.
“Longer term I think we need to wait and see,” Milanesi said. “I am not sure we are totally clear as to what the true role of these wearable devices really is, especially as the Internet of Things materializes.”
Forrester Research’s J.P. Gownder said he’s convinced that Apple Watch will push smartwatches into the mainstream in a way that devices running Google’s Android Wear haven’t managed.
“Apple will legitimize and create the mass-market wearables category,” he said.
McQuivey said he doesn’t expect the Apple Watch to catch on with consumers as quickly as the iPad, which first introduced most people to the concept of a tablet computer.
He noted how Apple CEO Tim Cook repeatedly referred to the device as a “personal” device and said that could be the key to wide appeal.
From design to health monitoring to the Apple Pay feature, the watch could become a seamless piece of people’s day-to-day lives, not a mere novelty, he said.
“As a longtime Pebble watch wearer, I can attest to the number of ways a watch, because of its glanceability and its one-touch efficiency, helps you get things done more quickly than before, causing you to do them even more,” he said.
But what about the people who just don’t wear watches, or those who have found, in a smartphone, a suitable replacement?
Milanesi said there’s a chance that even those consumers will come on board. After all, who thought they wanted a tablet computer before Apple showcased the iPad?
“There are users that never wore a watch who happily spent money on a fitness band, so I do not see why not,” Milanesi said. “Is it for everyone? No, of course not. But there is a market out there, especially of Apple users who see the benefits of having multiple Apple devices working together.”
(CNN) — A newly discovered asteroid will pass “very close” to Earth on Sunday, NASA says.
The space rock is 60 feet (20 meters) in size. It’s expected to fly over New Zealand about 2:18 p.m. EDT (11:18 a.m. PDT / 18:18 UTC.)
It won’t hit Earth or any of the thousands of satellites orbiting the planet, NASA says. It will give astronomers and scientists a chance to study it.
The asteroid won’t be visible the naked eye, but amateur astronomers should be able to see it with telescopes.
The asteroid, called 2014 RC, was discovered August 31 by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona.
(CNN) — In an old office building at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, there’s a room stacked high with plastic containers of synthetic urine. Researchers dip small white paddles into the liquid, wait for a grid of squares to change colors, and snap a photo with a custom smartphone app.
It’s all part of a futuristic self-diagnosis kit from startup Scanadu, which is competing to be the future of DIY health care.
Scanadu is one of 10 teams taking part in the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize contest to create an affordable, handheld device that consumers can use to diagnose their medical conditions at home. The goal is to make a working version of “Star Trek’s” tricorder, the television show’s fictional diagnostic device. In the series, the ship’s doctor would wave the portable black box over a patent’s body and immediately know if a person had broken bones, a disease or if they were going to die.
The real-life tricorder must weigh less than 5 pounds, monitor five vital signs and detect 15 medical conditions. It should let people measure their own blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, oxygen saturation and respiratory rate. Each system will be able to diagnose common health conditions including diabetes, anemia, sleep apnea and pneumonia.
“We’re asking teams to put together an aggregation of technologies that’s never been done before,” said Dr. Erik Viirre, the technical and medical director for the Tricorder X Prize. “We’re spurring things to market faster, better and cheaper.”
The multiyear contest is run by X Prize, a nonprofit organization that attempts to accelerate major technological advances. Last week, the judges narrowed down the field of 41 teams to 10, which now have until April to create working prototypes for consumer tests. The three groups that make the most successful tricorders will split a $ 10 million prize.
In 2005, Walter De Brouwer’s 5-year-old son jumped out of a window and fell 36 feet to the ground. After a year in emergency rooms, operating rooms and the ICU, De Brouwer had a whole new perspective on hospitals. He saw firsthand how powerless patients often were. Inspired by the less invasive medical devices from science fiction, he moved to Silicon Valley and started Scanadu.
” ‘Star Trek’ was not TV, it was a business plan,” said 57-year-old De Brouwer.
Scanadu is already close to having working prototypes of its tricorder system. In addition to the Scanaflo (a single-use urine test) the company has created the Scanadu Scout, a palm-sized disc you press to your forehead or temple for 10 seconds to take vital signs, including blood pressure, temperature, heart and respiratory rate.
The readings are imported to a smartphone, analyzed and tracked over time. De Brouwer’s vision is to have a constant collection of data that creates a baseline for each user. That information will allow the Scanadu app to detect issues early, even before there are noticeable symptoms.
These types of devices are not meant to replace doctors, but to fill in when in-person medical care is not available, affordable or necessary.
Every day, Dr. Basil Harris sees patients who have waited too long to seek treatment, often because they lack insurance or a primary care giver. There’s a steady stream of them at the Chicago emergency room where he works, showing up days after the first symptoms of serious illnesses.
Harris, who also has a Ph.D. in engineering, leads the Tricorder X Prize finalist team Final Frontier Medical Devices. His tricorder combines a regular tablet computer with a separate Bluetooth gadget that takes vitals and runs other tests. The companion tablet app walks the patient through the same types of questions Harris asks every patient who comes into his ER.
“It does everything you would expect a normal physician to do,” said Harris. “What an ER doctor does is make diagnoses. Doing that is somewhat an art and somewhat science.”
His team is also working on a novel approach to a neurological exam. Using the tablet, they can test users’ vision, picking up on subtle defects caused by illness. For example, if a person has suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke, they might lose some vision on just one side. The tests could detect the issue and tell the person to seek medical help immediately, cutting down on the chance of permanent disability.
Inventing a new medical device is only the first step to getting it into the hands of real people. Perhaps even more useful than the money is how the X Prize is working with the Food and Drug Administration. Getting regulatory compliance for a new product is notoriously difficult and expensive, and it requires clinical trials. But the FDA is working closely with the X Prize organization.
The X Prize will also manage the vigorous final tests that determine which devices will win. Each team must produce 30 working prototypes of their tricorders for consumer testers. They’ll be used and reviewed by people who have one of the conditions the tricorders are required to detect.
The final teams hail from six countries. They include doctors, engineers, undergrads, entrepreneurs and researchers, and all have unique approaches to the technology. Many, like Scanadu, Final Frontier and Slovenian team MESI Simplifying Diagnostics, are creating small gadgets that work with existing mobile devices. Some are taking a more traditional approach with things like blood pressure cuffs and finger pricks. The Danvantri team from India is working on a low-cost device worn around the neck specifically for developing countries.
One thing they all agree on is that this technology’s time is now.
“This device, whether it’s mine or someone else’s, is coming,” said Harris. “It puts the information in the hands of the consumer where they can make actionable decisions. It really levels the playing field.”