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Microsoft Tailors OneNote For Android Tablets, Updates OneNote For Windows


Fresh out this morning is a tablet optimized version of OneNote for Android, and several new features to OneNote for Windows.

OneNote for Android tablets — you can snag it here — contains what Microsoft calls “handwriting support,” more formatting options, and interface tweaks to better suit larger tablet screens. In keeping with Microsoft’s cross-platform strategy, tablet support for a rival company’s devices isn’t surprising. The release is a continuance of the company’s current ‘platforms and productivity’ bent.

On the Windows side of things, Microsoft has added highlighting, printing support and the ability to insert PDFs into notes on the Metro build of OneNote.

The larger context to the above is that the Android work is a simple prelude to the touch-focused build of Office for tablets running the Google-built operating system. OneNote came to iPad before Office. And now OneNote is coming to Android tablets before Office.

Office for Android is widely expected to be released before a touch build of Office for Windows tablets, and the Windows 8.1 RT operating system. That software irony aside, if you were looking for a taste of what the coming Android tablet build of Office will look like, here’s what is likely a teaser:


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HitchBOT Shows That Robots Can Trust Humans With Cross-Canada Journey


A project cosponsored by a group of Canadian universities, startups and Microsoft Azure has resulted in a robot named HitchBOT successfully making its way across Canada, beginning its journey in Halifax on the country’s eastern coast and ending in Victoria, British Columbia on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

The project saw a rudimentary robot depending completely on strangers willing to pick it up and transport it to get where it was going, and the entire journey took only a little less than a month and resulted in no major injuries, besides a cracked protector screen for its LED ‘face’ and somewhat garbled speech compared to its initial eloquence.

HitchBOT was picked up only two minutes after it began its journey, and had an easy go of finding subsequent rides along the way. The robot is very crude, but could have conversations with its drivers, though occasionally it required power from the cigarette lighter port of cars, or from any standard outlet. Its speech engine is also very simplistic, so fielding a lot of questions could potentially result in an overload that requires the bot to shut down and reboot, which could take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours.

HitchBOT’s complexity or lack thereof isn’t the point of this art/science/research project, however; project co-creator Frauke Zeller says the bot’s quick and safe journey across country shows that robots can trust in the kindness of strangers, in an interview with the Toronto Star.

It’s an interesting angle, especially given how much attention is paid to whether humans can trust robots – we’re all on edge about the possibility of Skynet awakening and deciding to eradicate its imperfect, flabby, messy flesh-filled creators, but what about the (more likely?) possibility that humans end up breaking, modifying or defacing every robot they encounter in public?

HitchBOT made it safe and sound, but to be fair he was traveling across the country with perhaps the best reputation for an affable, kind citizenry in existence. I move that HitchBOT next try to make its way across the U.S., or at least the mean streets of the U.K.

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Google Launches Photo Sphere Camera App On iOS


Google has just launched a new photo application for iOS users called Photo Sphere Camera, which allows you to take 360-degree photos, then publish them to Google Maps or other social networks. The app is an expansion of a feature that was previously available via Google’s Android operating system, and shipped on the Nexus-branded smartphones.

Now available on iOS, the new app lets you stand in one place, pointing the viewfinder at a dot on the screen then tilt and move the phone until you’ve captured the scenery around you.

360 images are not exactly a new idea for smartphones. iOS offers its own “Pano” mode and third-party apps like Sphere, 360 Panorama and the nifty hands-free Cycloramic have offered similar functionality for some time.

But what makes Google’s Photo Spheres different is that they let you look not just left and right, but also up and down – like you can with Google Street View, for example. That makes them a more immersive experience, and lets you feel like you’re really seeing the view captured, like a beach, mountains, cityscape and more.

Of course, Google’s entry into this space is more about gaining access to another stream of user-generated data which it can use to augment its Google Maps product. It’s like the consumer-grade version of the Google Street View camera.

After users create a Photo Sphere, they can opt to publish to a dedicated community within Google Maps called Views, or social networks like Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. Additionally, explains Google, locally relevant photo spheres may appear in Google Maps itself, helping people to virtually explore the world.

Photo Sphere is fun to use, if a bit much for everyday use. The app is a free download here on iTunes.

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Tom Daschle’s Son Raises Half A Million To Remake Into The Kickstarter Of Local Politics


Political startup has raised half a million dollars and made a major switch from the political social network it started out as back in 2011 to a local political fundraising platform. The site went through a reboot after it didn’t get the votes needed to make a social play over the last few years. It did, however, figure out a larger need in local politics – a free way for grassroots politicians to create websites to raise money online. Co-founder Nathan Daschle (yes, former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle’s son) alludes to it as a community-based Kickstarter for your local school board rep.

“We’re hoping that will help level the playing field in the races that matter,” says Daschle. In the process he and his co-founders Jonathan Zucker and angel investor Leo Wang realized they were actually building something that a lot of political candidates might possibly want. And so pivot, they did.

Now, flush with half a million to keep itself going, has partnered with the Democratic Parties in Maryland, Idaho, and Michigan to get candidates and local and county party organizations online. “Our partnership with is at the center of our effort to revamp our digital infrastructure,” says Michigan Democratic Party chair Lon Johnson. According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, campaign expenditures for Michigan State House races totaled nearly $20 million. It should be noted here that is a free platform. It makes its money by charging 5.75 percent of funds raised, or net 2 percent, much like a Kickstarter or Indiegogo monetization model.

Of course, there are other solutions out there besides A local school board rep could cobble together a WordPress page that hooks into Facebook and a host of other applications instead of They could also get a website custom-made or just gin up a Facebook page and hook it into PayPal. Some of this would take either a lot of work or some technical know-how to do – technical know-how that may seem very simple to those in the tech community but not necessarily to a local person running for office. Daschle says the grassroots politicians really needed a one-stop shop for this sort of thing. offers bundled event management, an email blaster, social media marketing, a free donations page, and provides the data needed for political campaign finance filing, all on one platform.

It came as a surprise to Daschle how easy the buy-in has been with local candidates. “It’s just harder to find the ones not already online yet,” he tells me. Next up is to target the five states that will hold statewide elections next year—Virginia, New Jersey, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Daschle believes this new will be the digital change local candidates need in their political world. “The ability to state your issues and communicate them clearly on the Internet can be the difference in winning a race, and a website from the late ‘90s isn’t going to cut it,” Daschle says.

We’ll be waiting to see if this new iteration of will actually rock the vote on a local level as well.

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Fly Or Die: Sex Toys


This episode of Fly or Die, focused on two different sex toys, may seem straightforward, but John and I actually learned a lot. We realized that not all sex toys are created equal, especially when you’re weighing sex toys for girls against those for boys.

In this particular episode, we look at the AutoBlow 2, a blowjob machine that launched on Indiegogo earlier this summer, and the OhMiBod BlueMotion NEX 1, a panty-insert vibrator that connects to your smartphone.

While both are surely effective in their intended goals, we noticed a very glaring difference between the two products that is representative of a larger trend. Boys sex toys kind of suck.

For instance, the AutoBlow 2 only has one speed, feels generally plastic-y and cheap in real life, and must be plugged in to work. Essentially, you’re making love to a thermos as you cower near an outlet.

Meanwhile, the OhMiBod is a beautifully designed, full-featured product that has Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity alongside an iPhone app.

In short, this is a call to all the entrepreneurs out there building sex toys for guys. Step up your game.

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Y Combinator-Backed Traction Is A Marketplace Connecting Brands With Freelance Marketers


A new startup called Traction says it’s giving brands an alternative to the traditional marketing model — instead of working with agencies, Traction has created a marketplace for finding the best marketing specialist for a given campaign.

Traction is part of the current batch of startups incubated at Y Combinator, i.e., the one that’s taking the stage at today’s Demo Day. The company has already raised funding from Digital Garage, 500 Startups, Ullas Naik, and others.

Brands that have used Traction include Sony, Kraft, Danone, Unilever, Yahoo, CBS, and the Republican Party. Those are bigger names than I was expecting, but co-founder Ken Zi Wang argued that brands are looking for “innovative solutions” and products that are more “performance-based.” In other words, they want more data about what’s actually working, and they want to pay for actual results.

Those brands set up a campaigns on Traction by entering information like the primary objective, the target audience, the maximum budget, and the area of expertise where they’re looking for help. The marketplace will then algorithmically match them with marketers specializing in fields like search optimization, media buying, lead generation, content marketing, and social media.

In some ways, the model reminded me of the freelance marketplaces that companies like Contently and NewsCred have built for content marketing. Wang said that’s a fair comparison, but while those companies are focused on content creation, Traction is more about distribution and promotion.

More broadly, he said his goal is to create “this new job category,” similar to Uber, except in this case with “partner marketers” rather than drivers. (As Uber and other marketplaces for freelance work have expanded, there’s been some skepticism about the desirability and sustainability of those jobs.)

The marketers currently on the Traction site include some who are completely freelance, and others who are looking to make extra money on top of their existing jobs. Wang said they sometimes team up to form “flexible work groups.” He added that Traction partners are often “very skilled digital marketers” who would otherwise “never have a chance” to work with large brands.

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