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PayPal reverses its ban on 'obscene' e-books

After vocal outrage from authors, e-publishers, and free speech activists, PayPal has shifted its "acceptable use" policy on e-books containing certain erotica content. The online payment company announced today that mostly books with images will be under scrutiny.

"First and foremost, we are going to focus this policy only on e-books that contain potentially illegal images, not e-books that are limited to just text," PayPal spokesman Anuj Nayar said in a statement today. "The policy will prohibit use of PayPal for the sale of e-books that contain child pornography, or e-books with text and obscene … Read more

PayPal demands 'obscene' e-books be pulled

Mark Coker, the founder of e-book publisher Smashwords, got an alarming e-mail from PayPal's enforcement division last month. It was an ultimatum telling the company to pull certain books with "obscene" content from its inventory, Coker said in a blog post.

"Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest, and underage erotica," he wrote. "PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal services."

Smashwords isn't the only e-book publisher targeted by PayPal, according to the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), similar emails were also … Read more

New video of the ShutUp Gun in action

Loud screams of excitement have been heard ever since the revelation that two Japanese researchers had developed a gun that could stop people talking. Without killing them.

I wrote about this fascinating firearm only the other day.

Now the Japanese researchers who developed it are so excited by the excitement that they have released a YouTube video of the device.

And what a frisky little Colt .45 silencer it is.

Wired reports that the two creators, Kazutaka Kurihara at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tskuba and Koji Tsukada at Ochanomizu University, are bemused at the … Read more

Windows 8 will be more accessible to those with disabilities

Microsoft is enhancing some of the accessibility features in Windows 8 to make the new OS easier for people with disabilities.

Certain "assistive technologies" have long been a part of Windows. The built-in Narrator can read text aloud to people who are blind. The Magnifier can zoom in to display content for people who have trouble seeing. Speech recognition allows people who are unable to type to navigate via voice.

But as described in the latest Building Windows 8 blog by Jennifer Norberg, a senior program manager on Microsoft's Human Interaction Platform team, Windows 8 is taking those features a few steps further.… Read more

Five free voice-recording iPad apps compared

People have been looking for ways to improve on the iPad's onscreen keyboard since day one. The constant screen-shifting and other shortcomings of the iPad key layout have led many people to use apps that let you communicate with minimum typing. Say "hello" to voice-recording apps.

Of the five free voice-recording iPad apps I tried, only two--Audio Memos Free and Smart Recorder Lite--let you record short sound bites and attach the resulting sound files to an e-mail or transfer them via Wi-Fi, ftp, or an online file-storage service. Dragon Dictation coverts the words you speak into text … Read more

China tightens screws on microbloggers

Beijing's city government has announced new rules that require users of local Twitter-like sites to register their real names with the services for verification by government authorities--a move apparently meant to quash anonymous posts critical of China's leaders and rob dissidents of a tool for organizing protests.

Quoting China's state-run Xinhua news agency, The Wall Street Journal reported that state secrets, material that threatens national security, posts that inspire ethnic resentment or discrimination, and posts involving rallies that "disrupt social order" were also being banned from microblogging sites.

The announcement comes as more and more … Read more

Judge dismisses Twitter stalking case

A federal judge today dismissed a criminal case against a man accused of stalking a religious leader on Twitter, ruling that the "uncomfortable" speech included in his tweets were protected by the Constitution.

William Lawrence Cassidy was accused of using the microblogging site to harass and cause "substantial emotional distress" to a religious figure identified in court papers only by the initials "A.Z." Some of the more than 8,000 tweets Cassidy sent included predictions of A.Z.'s violent death.

"Although in bad taste, Mr. Cassidy's Tweets and Blog posts … Read more

Speech Buddies offer greater precision in therapy (video)

Over the years, speech therapists have typically used such simple tools such as tongue depressors, spoons, and drinking straws to help kids with speech impediments make the proper sound.

So perhaps it's not entirely surprising that a party favor served as the inspiration for one of the tools in Speech Buddies, a set of five devices created to help kids make specific sounds. They were created by a medical device engineer and a speech therapist, after two years and hundreds of prototypes. To find out more, check out this video from SmartPlanet.

This video first appeared at SmartPlanet under … Read more

Voice behind British Siri goes public despite Apple warning

Former technology journalist Jon Briggs has revealed himself as the voice of Siri in the United Kingdom, despite a warning from Apple to keep silent.

In an interview with the U.K.'s Telegraph, Briggs outed himself as the voice behind Daniel, the name given to the U.K.'s version of Siri. iPhone 4S users who change Siri's language in iOS 5 to English (United Kingdom) can hear the actual voice, which naturally carries with it a slight British accent.

Briggs spilled the beans even after a call from an Apple PR rep who told him not to speak publicly about Siri, … Read more

How to get voice command on all your devices

When Siri for the iPhone 4S was announced, downloads for Vlingo, a voice command app for Android, shot up 50%. Why? Because voice command, especially with artificial intelligence, can complete tasks more efficiently than our own fingers.

The act of talking to our gadgets is still in the awkward stage, but pretty soon we'll all be voice-commanding our phones, forgetting that we ever lived without artificial intelligence.

Voice command (and speech recognition) isn't just available for phones. Check out our guides on getting these services on any of your gadgets:

Android

How to get voice command on your Android phoneRead more