Tech Roundup: Facebook Tracking, Iridophores & More

[A recurring feature on the latest in Science & Technology.]

Is Facebook tracking users who aren't on Facebook?
Social network Facebook is tracking web browsing activities of all its visitors to the domain even if the user does not have an account or has explicitly opted out of tracking, detailed research commissioned by the Belgian data protection agency has revealed. The newly found means of tracking, meant for purposes of targeted advertising, is done via Facebook's social plugin, the Like button, which is embedded on more than 13 million websites, the report further adds.

Apple announces Apple Watch at Spring Forward event
(Image: Apple)
Apple's new marketing gimmick comes preloaded with iOS 8.2 update:
As much as I despise the concept of folders, I finally gave in and created one called 'Extras' (recreated to be specific!) on my erstwhile iPhone 5s to move all the unwanted apps which I had no use for (note: this use case could vary from user to user). They included Stocks, Newsstand, Tips, Game Center, Health, Passbook, Podcasts, Voice Memos, iTunes Store, Videos, Compass, FaceTime and Maps. I did however use iBooks a lot though! While I do agree that Apple likes to control its ecosystem, both hardware and software (like how Android smartphones come with Google Play apps preloaded), it also must be acknowledged that these so called Apple-made apps pale in comparison to their respective superior third-party alternatives.

Take the Apple Watch app for example, which is the latest to join the aforementioned long list of preinstalled and undeletable apps. What's surprising here is that this new app, rolled out alongside iOS 8.2 update, is a companion app for a product (read: Apple Watch) that's yet to hit the market (April 24). Which effectively means it is more or less an ad, a clever marketing strategy aimed at iPhone users to convince (or entice) them into buying one for themselves. The more expensive, the better! (And by the way, let's also forget how ridiculous the app's icon looks okay?) Unfortunately, having all these impossible-to-remove apps means lesser available storage for your needs, especially if it's a 16GB variant, or even worse, 8GB if you have an iPhone 5c.

When Apple announced the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus last year, it strangely (and cleverly) left the entry-level iPhone's storage capacity unchanged at 16GB, but increased the storage options to 64GB and 128GB from the previous 32GB and 64GB configurations that were made available for the iPhone 5s. Is this Apple's subtle way of pushing users who have purchased its 16GB iDevices into subscribing to its paid iCloud service? Possible, but I really wish Apple gave an option to uninstall its default "bloatware" apps, or perhaps at least increase the base storage capacity to 32GB to counter this.

In other news:
  • Death toll from West Africa's Ebola outbreak of 2013-2014 passes 10,000, reports WHO.
  • Male chameleons' ability to change colours not controlled by pigment-containing organelles as previously thought, instead it's driven by a thick layer of light-reflecting cells called iridophores, which are embedded with photonic crystals—a latticed organization of guanine nanocrystals.
  • Doctors perform the world's first successful penis transplant in South Africa in what was later described as a "marathon" nine-hour transplant operation.
  • Anthropocene era, the Age of Man, began in 1610 with the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, reveals a new study published in Nature.
  • Antarctica's floating ice shelves thinning at an accelerated rate, according to a new research published in Science.
  • World's largest particle accelerator Large Hadron Collider (LHC) restarts for the first time since 2013; energy of proton particle beams expected to reach 13 trillion electronvolts, double of what it was during the LHC's first operating run.
  • Microsoft announces a new Surface 3 tablet with a 10.8-inch display for US $499.
  • Google+ photos to be soon viewable from Google Drive (the other way round was always possible).
  • OnePlus finally releases its own variant of Android called OxygenOS after fight with Cyanogen.
  • Android Lollipop and Apple iOS updated to versions 5.1 and 8.2 respectively.
  • Canonical's Ubuntu Phone goes on sale in Europe for 169 Euros.
  • Apple and Google bet big on reversible USB Type-C connector with the newly announced MacBook and Chromebook Pixel laptops (I wish Microsoft's Surface 3 tablet came with one too!).
  • Beleaguered handset maker HTC's CEO Peter Chou steps down to focus on innovation lab; co-founder Cher Wang takes over.
  • Popular Indian online retailer Flipkart shuts down its mobile website; to become an app-only platform.
  • Twitter buys live broadcasting app Periscope; re-launches it under its own umbrella, pitting it directly against Meerkat, a similar live streaming app which ironically relied on Twitter to import contacts to its service (the latter has since then blocked Meerkat, no surprises there!).
  • Social network Facebook introduces Messenger Platform at its F8 Developer Conference, opening up its Messenger chat app to third-party integrations; also lets you send money to your friends through the app.