Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tiny Allegiant Air thrives on low costs, high fees. Scott Mayerowitz, AP Airlines Writer.


The Las Vegas-based airline charges extra to book flights online, or to use a credit card. Selecting a seat in advance costs $5 to $75 each way, depending on the length of a flight. Even a bottle of water costs $2.
Like some other budget airlines, Allegiant advertises extremely low base fares and then tacks on numerous fees. A roundtrip ticket with Allegiant costs $195, on average. But passengers pay an additional $83 in fees — or 30 percent of the total cost of flying.
To book a trip by phone, Allegiant charges $50 for each roundtrip ticket. To book online costs $20 for each roundtrip ticket. The only way to avoid the fees is to purchase tickets at the airport, something fewer than 3 percent of its customers did last year.
But whether you book by phone, Internet or in person, paying with a credit card costs an extra $8.
Placing a suitcase in an overhead bin is $10 to $25. Boarding passes signify who has paid the fee. If passengers show up at the airport with a large carry-on bag and haven't prepaid the fee, the airline penalizes them an additional $25 to $50, depending on the route.
Flying Allegiant isn't glamorous. While other airlines tout new aircraft with Wi-Fi and TVs in every seat, Allegiant buys old planes to avoid hefty aircraft loans. And to pack in as many passengers as possible, its seats don't recline. But for small-town Americans with limited flight options, these inconveniences are worth it for a few days of sunshine.
Allegiant is ruthless about keeping its costs down. Its employees are some of the lowest paid in the industry, in some cases making $20 an hour less than colleagues at other airlines. It pays cash for airplanes nearly twice as old as everyone else. It only sells directly to vacationers, refusing to pay Expedia, Orbitz or other sites to list its flights.
And if you have a question, it will cost you: the airline doesn't have a toll-free number.
The bigger problem is if a mechanical issue forces a plane to be grounded. Given its limited schedule and packed planes, there usually isn't another flight to book passengers on. Instead, they are left waiting six hours while a new plane is flown in.
Sometimes flights are postponed to the next day. In one extreme situation in March, more than 1,700 passengers flying to and from Hawaii saw multi-day delays, including one flight that was 52 hours late.
That's a lot of time to kill at an airport bar.
Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at

Friday, June 28, 2013

Study ranks America’s smartest cities. Mary Ann Georgantopoulos.

                        Despite being home to Harvard, Boston/Cambridge, MA., ranked in only 49 on the list.

A new list from Lumosity ranked the smartest cities in the United States. How should we feel that two of the three Metro cities didn’t make the cut?
The San-Francisco-based company, which creates brain-training exercises, ranked Ithaca, N.Y., a relatively small college town, which houses both Cornell University and Ithaca College, as the smartest in the country.
Lumosity has been around since 2007 and claims to have amassed the world’s largest dataset of human cognitive performance. They claim to have collected data from more than 40 million people.
In the study for the smartest places in the country, they used data from 3 million people between the ages of 18 and 75 who regularly play the Lumosity brain-training games. The games measure memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention and problem solving.
It’s no surprise that many of the cities and towns that topped the list are college towns. What’s surprising is that Boston and Cambridge, home to MIT, Harvard and many more prestigious schools, came in at spot 49.
“One of the most interesting findings from this analysis is that most of the top metro areas contain major research universities, suggesting that education is an important predictor of cognitive performance,” Lumosity data scientist Daniel Sternberg said in a statement. “Neuroscience research has found that those who are engaged in learning and cognitively stimulating activities throughout the lifetime buildup a ‘cognitive reserve’ that helps maintain and improve cognitive performance.”
Here is the full list of America’s smartest cities.
1.    Ithaca, NY

2. State College, PA

3. Lafayette-West Lafayette, IN

4. Iowa City, IA

5. Ames, IA

6. Ann Arbor, MI

7. Bloomington, IN

8. Madison, WI

9. Lawrence, KS

10. Pullman, WA

11. College Station-Bryan, TX

12. Appleton, WI

13. Champaign-Urbana, IL

14. Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA

15. Charlottesville, VA

16. Boulder, CO

17. Provo-Orem, UT

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Google, Yahoo and Bing warned by FTC over advert labelling. Charles Arthur.

US search engines, including Google and Yahoo, have been warned by the FTC to clearly label paid-for search results. Photograph: Alamy

The Federal Trade Commission has written to search engines operating in the US warning them to "clearly and prominently" distinguish advertising from "natural" search results, saying that over the past decade it has seen companies beginning to mix the two.
The letter (PDF) has been sent to the three largest US search engines – Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing - and also to AOL, Blekko, DuckDuckGo and 17 other specialist search engines for shopping, travel, and local business which display adverts to users.
The FTC, set up to protect US consumers' interests, does not name any search engine company in particular as having breached its rules. But it warns the companies that "consumers ordinarily expect that natural search results are included and ranked based on relevance to a search query, not based on payment from a third party. Including or ranking a search result in whole or in part based on payment is a form of advertising. To avoid the potential for deception, consumers should be able to easily distinguish a natural search result from advertising that a search engine delivers."
It says in the past year, the tendency for search engines to put adverts immediately above "natural" results – as Google and others do – has led more than half of users not to recognise them as adverts. In a survey, nearly half of searchers said the background shading for adverts was white – exactly the opposite of the correct answer, where paid ads above "natural" results are distinguished on almost all search engines by having a non-white background shading. Paid adverts on the right of natural search results have a white background on Google, Bing and Yahoo.
The FTC also says that general search engines which offer specialised services such as news, images, local business or shopping where companies pay to appear should make it clear that they are effectively advertising – and that failing to label them as such would constitute "deceptive practice".
According to the research company eMarketer, Google is the US's most-used search engine, and raked in 73.8% of the $17.3bn (£11.3bn) that was spent on search advertising in 2012 – leaving just $4.5bn for rivals, most of which would have been taken by Yahoo and Bing.
Last year, Google shifted its Shopping search so that it only includes paid listings. The Shopping listing  
re presented on a panel with a white background – the same as "natural" search results – and with grey text saying "sponsored" at the top right. Above that is a light-shaded panel with a paid ad.
Google said in a statement to the Reuters news agency that clear labelling and disclosure of paid search were important and "we've always strived to do that as our products have evolved."
Charles Arthur.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

FTC investigating Google’s ways with Waze. JOSH KOSMAN and GARETT SLOANE. New York

            Waze  For months, we’ve been working hard behind the scenes over here to bring you what’s probably our most exciting new version yet…version 3.0 for iPhone!  Photo Oct. 13, 2011,

The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Google’s $1 billion acquisition of Waze, The Post has learned.
Regulators will examine Google’s June 11 purchase of the Israel-based social mapping service, even though the deal “closed” earlier this month, two sources close to the situation said.
Google believed it did not need to submit the deal for review because Waze’s US revenue is less than $70 million.
Google is already a force in the digital mapping industry, and Waze’s own CEO Noam Bardin once characterized his company as one of the only competitive threats to its new owner.
In January, the FTC, under a commissioner who has since resigned, closed a 20-month probe of Google’s search practices by allowing the Mountain View, Calif., company to voluntarily remove restrictions on the use of its online search advertising platform.
If the FTC concludes that Google must divest itself of Waze, Google most likely would have to take the potential loss in re-selling the company.
Apple, Facebook and Microsoft all have reportedly put in bids for the mapping firm.
Waze has almost 50 million users who pool their data and share real-time traffic updates.
The Post reported almost two weeks ago that a protracted regulatory review was on the way.
While Google has said Waze will remain independent, any plans to integrate the service with its own could be delayed during the probe.
Google and FTC spokesmen declined comment.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Where Teens Go Instead of Facebook (and Why You Should Too). Becky Worley | Upgrade Your Life.

Remember a few years back, when teenagers left MySpace in droves for this new thing called Facebook? Grown-ups soon followed suit (not that they were ever much on MySpace), and joined Facebook by the hundreds of millions – which made it far less cool for their kids. So where on the Web are teens going now, and what can you learn from them?
A recent study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 94% of American teens still have a Facebook account, but they’re using it less, and using it more carefully.
More than half have tightened down their privacy settings and regularly delete or edit previous posts.
But even with tightened privacy settings, teens have realized that Facebook is more like a family picnic than the private party they want it to be. They still share photos and use Facebook messaging, but they are increasingly turning to newer social networks to fill the function of traditional status updates. So which sites are they using – and why?
While teens do seem to understand privacy much better now than in the early days of social media, they still have a desire to put themselves out there in a public way. And that’s where microblogs like Tumblr and Pheed come in. The culture that has evolved on these sites is more slanted to creative self-expression than Facebook’s life-casting (telling all the mundane details of your day).  Both are deeply skewed towards mobile use, and there are tons of clever and thematic blogs, think Texts from Hillary or Reasons My Son is Crying.Neither are particularly teen-oriented, but there are clear differences in style and content between a Tumblr and a Facebook feed.
Twitter saw a doubling of teen users last year. And young people use it more publicly than they do Facebook; while teens with Facebook accounts typically keep their postings private, visible only to their friends, only 24% report keeping their tweets private. Since Twitter feels more instant than Facebook, it’s a good one to consider if your musings are topical and timely.
Increasingly, the hot sites among the younger set create private networks, ones that automatically restrict who can see your updates, like Path, which limits your friend list to 150 people.This built-in privacy makes everything feel more personal – though if you have 151 real-world friends, you’ll just have to choose.
Image Sharing
Instagram is pretty good for photo sharing, especially if you like using their funky filters. Teens thought that it great, until mom and dad showed up there, too.
So then came Snapchat, a way to send pics that self-destruct after being viewed. Except that assuming what you send will really disappear is fraught with peril, since the recipient can grab a permanent screen shot of a picture before its deleted. Still, Snapchat is hot – to the tune of 150 million snaps a day – for good reason: it is a fun way to share casual, goofy pics that aren’t meant to signify deep meaning in your life. Just remember that, as with anything you post digitally, “deleting” may not really mean it can’t come back to haunt you.
Messaging Services
If you’re paying as much as $20 a month (or really, any amount over zero) for texting on your phone, think about these alternatives: Kik and WhatsApp have bitten into Facebook messaging, especially here in the US. Globally, services like WeChat in China, KakaoTalk in Korea, and Line in the Middle East and Asia, are all on the rise. Using these services may eat a tiny bit into your data usage, but should enable you to reduce what you spend on your cell phone overall.