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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Year in Hacking, by the Numbers

Security experts like to say that there are now only two types of companies left in the United States: those that have been hacked and those that don’t know they’ve been hacked.

Their latest supporting evidence comes in the form of an annual Verizon report, which counted 621 confirmed data breaches last year, and more than 47,000 reported “security incidents.” Those include distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks, in which hackers flood a site with traffic until it falls offline, but do not necessarily break into a company’s network.

The victims spanned a wide range of industries. Thirty-seven percent of breached companies were financial firms; 24 percent were retailers and restaurants; 20 percent involved manufacturing, transportation and utility industries; and 20 percent of the breaches affected organizations that Verizon qualified as “information and professional services firms.” (The totals exceed 100 percent because of rounding.)

“The results validate that any business that operates online is at potential risk of suffering a data breach,” said Wade Baker, one of the report’s principal authors. “We talk to a lot of actors that are flabbergasted that they would be attacked by a group based across the world. But the report shows that no matter the size of the organization â€" large, small, government agencies, banks, restaurants, retailers â€" people are stealing data from a range of different organizations and it’s a problem everyone has to deal with.”

Verizon collaborated with 18 organizations to feed data into this year’s report. Three quarters of successful breaches were done by profit-minded criminals for financial gain. But the second most common type of breach was a state-affiliated attack “aimed at stealing intellectual property â€" such as classified information, trade secrets and technical resources â€" to further national and economic interests.”

Attackers often route their Web traffic through infected computers around the world. But Mr. Baker said victims were able to trace the attacks back to state-affiliated groups in “two out of three cases.”

Verizon did not call out any nation state in particular, but government officials in the United States recently started stepping up diplomatic pressure on China to curtail cyberespionage that originates from within its borders. Last month, the Obama administration demanded that the Chinese government stop the theft of data from American computer networks. And on Monday, cybersecurity was the focus of a meeting between the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, and Gen. Fang Fenghui of China.

In 76 percent of data breaches, weak or stolen user names and passwords were a cause. In 40 percent of cases, Verizon said the attackers installed malicious software on the victim’s systems; 35 percent of cases involved “physical attacks” in which the attackers did physical harm, to a skimmer at an automated teller machine, for instance.

In 29 percent of breaches, the attackers leveraged social tactics, such as spear phishing, in which a tailored e-mail to the victim purports to come from a friend or business contact. The e-mails contain malicious links or attachments that, when clicked, give the attacker a foothold in the victim’s computer network. Verizon said it witnessed four times as many “social engineering” attacks that used this method in 2012 as it did in 2011. That method, Verizon said, was most popular among attackers in cyberespionage campaigns.

The Verizon report also highlighted the lag between the time an organization has been breached and the time it discovers the breach. “The compromise-to-discovery timeline continues to be measured in months and even years, as opposed to hours and days,” the report said.

Today’s Scuttlebot: Amazon Pilots, and Facebook in Iowa

Here are some of the more interesting items that the tech reporters and editors of The New York Times found on the Web recently. More Scuttlebot can be found here.

Facebook Home Passes 500,000 Installations on Google Play in First Week
The Next Web |  Facebook Home gets poor reviews in first week on the Google Play store. â€" Vindu Goel

Facebook Is Said to Be Behind $1 Billion Data Center in Iowa
Blogs.desmoinesregister.com |  Facebook goes to Iowa to add another data center. Says it is looking for a place with low disaster risk. Tornadoes? â€" Damon Darlin

‘Aurora’ Cyber Attackers Were Really Running CounterIntelligence
Cio.com.au |  Google always said its 2010 cyberattackers were after activists’ Gmail accounts. Microsoft thinks they were after more. â€" Nicole Perlroth

Arbor Networks Security Findings
Arbornetworks.com |  Denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks are becoming a bigger nuisance. â€" Nicole Perlroth

Why Developers Are Leaving the Facebook Platform
Andrewchen.co |  An interesting blog post on why Facebook has become an undesirable platform for startups to build a business around. â€" Brian X. Chen

NamcoBandai Bravely Prices Its Apple Games at $55
Venturebeat.com |  $155, if you buy all three parts. Instead of free and low-price mobile games, one company asks console gaming price. â€" Quentin Hardy

Restart Me Back Up
The Verge |  Your old friend, the Start button, may be returning to the next version of Windows. â€" Nick Wingfield

Digital Cameras for Dogs
Sony.jp |  Sony’s high-definition camera goes on skiers and scuba divers. Next week in Japan there will be a dog harness for it, too. â€" Quentin Hardy

‘Calvin and Hobbes’ Gets an App. ‘The Far Side’ Holds Out.
Slate.com |  It’s part of the GoComics app, with “Doonesbury” and “Dilbert.” But Gary Larson has resisted the online route. â€" Howell Murray

Yahoo Brings Summly to iPhone App
CNet Green Tech |  Yahoo continues to unleash a tsunami of new mobile apps. â€" Jenna Wortham

Super Mario and Artificial Intelligence
Newyorker.com |  What would it take to build a machine as smart as humans? Maybe Super Mario Bros. can answer that question. â€" Nick Bilton

Pilot Season on Amazon Instant Video
Amazon.com |  Amazon’s original content is now online â€" and the company wants viewers to vote on which get turned into full shows. â€" Jenna Wortham

Nest Labs Reaches for a New Market

Even before Nest Labs unveiled its first product in October 2011, the start-up had a strong trailing wind of Silicon Valley buzz.

Nest, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is led by Tony Fadell, a former Apple executive with a stellar pedigree, having helped bring the iPod and iPhone into the world. He and co-founder Matt Rogers recruited an A-list team of alumni not only from Apple, but also Google, Microsoft, Logitech and elsewhere. The venture backers were Valley blue chips including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Google Ventures.

The product was undeniably cool - a so-called learning thermostat, elegantly designed, and infused with artificial intelligence smarts.
Still, the basic question about Nest was whether its fancy thermostats could succeed beyond a relatively small market of affluent, environmentally conscious, technology enthusiasts.

The question remains, but the progress so far looks encouraging, and on Monday Nest announced distribution partnerships with utilities that serve more than 90 million people. The utility partners include NRG Energy, its subsidiaries Reliant and Green Mountain Energy, National Grid, Austin Energy and Southern California Edison.

The Nest thermostats and software are enabling energy- and cost-saving programs, especially for using less electricity in times of peak demand. Nest is calling these offerings Rush Hour Rewards and Seasonal Savings. Some utilities are offering incentive rebates to reduce the cost of the Nest thermostats, which sell for $249.

“We’re partnering with progressive utilities to go to the next stage,” said Maxime Veron, director of product marketing for Nest.

Nest’s early expansion seems to be going well. In 2011, its thermostats were sold directly from the company’s Web site and at a few Best Buy stores. Today, Mr. Veron said, the Nest devices are sold in more than 3,000 retail stores in the United States and Canada, including most Best Buy outlets, Apple stores and Lowe’s stores - as well as on Nest’s Web site and Amazon.com.

Mr. Veron is also encouraged by the brisk “smuggling,” as he puts it, of Nest thermostats abroad. Amazon and the Nest Web site only ship them to North America, but Nest thermostats are in 80 countries, with many of them in Australia, France and the Netherlands, for example. Nest knows from the IP addresses of the Internet-connected devices. They phone home, digitally.

David Crane, chief executive of NRG Energy, said it’s too early to tell how great the demand for Nest thermostats will be. But its technology creates an easy-to-use, interactive environment that not only learns from consumers’ energy use but also communicates with them, helping people adopt more thrifty patterns of electricity consumption. “Our sector is increasingly going to be information-based,” Mr. Crane said. “And Nest is an early mover in helping raise that window.”

Kik, a Messaging App, Raises Additional $19.5 Million

Kik, a popular mobile messaging app that also lets people share videos, drawings and voice messages, just got a little more gas in the tank for its race against rivals like WhatsApp, GroupMe, MessageMe and Facebook Messenger.

On Monday, Kik, a Canadian company, announced that it had raised $19.5 million in a new round of venture financing, led by Foundation Capital, which invested in Netflix, and with participation by RRE Ventures, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures. In addition, the company will be getting board advice from Anamitra Banerji, who held the title of Twitter’s first product manager and is now at Foundation Capital. Previously, the company raised close to $10 million in a seed and Series A round; the new infusion brings the company’s total financing to $29.1 million.

Ted Livingston, the company’s chief executive, said that the most recent round of financing was harder than the last two.

“The market for consumer mobile has cooled off a lot from a year ago,” he said. “There’s been a lot of disappointment, and no one is making any money or big exits. Fortunately for us, we had fantastic numbers and growth across all our metrics, so it was very doable.”

According to the company, Kik has more than 50 million users and adds 200,000 each day.

Mr. Livingston said the company was focusing on user growth and branching out with “Kik Cards,” an HTML5-based platform that allows applications to run on top of and within the Kik messaging service. So, for example, users can play games with their friends on Kik or even shop using the messaging application.The company said 25 million Kik Cards had been installed by users.

Those apps on the Kik Card system are crucial to the company’s plan to make money from its free application, said Mr. Livingston.

“We have the resources now to compete and we are determined,” he said.

Updates in the Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing

The Lede is following developments in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 170 others last week. On Monday, city officials announced a moment of silence at 2:50 p.m., the time that the bombs detonated last week near the race’s finish line. Investigators said they believe suspects were very likely planning additional attacks. And the city began to say goodbye to those it lost in the attack.

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10:22 A.M. Suspect Was Possibly in New York City Last Thanksgiving

As our colleagues, Eric Schmitt and Michael S. Schmidt report, law enforcement authorities believe the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings were quite likely planning more attacks.

United States officials said that they were increasingly certain the suspects were acting alone but may have been inspired or trained by someone. An investigation is under way into a trip to Russia last summer by one of the suspects, the elder brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who maintained a YouTube channel that included links to videos of extremists.

The other suspect, Dhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who remains in serious but stable condition at a Boston hospital, posted messages on his Twitter account last year that mentions trips to Washington last summer and to New York City around Thanksgiving.

In July 2012, he posted several messages about being on a train to Washington, including this one.

9:19 A.M. Moment of Silence at 2:50 P.M. Monday in Boston

Knowing Where to Focus the Wisdom of Crowds

It looks as if the theory of the “wisdom of crowds” doesn’t apply to terrorist manhunts.

Last week after the Boston Marathon bombings, the Internet quickly offered to help find the people responsible. In a scene metaphorically reminiscent of a movie in which vigilantes swarm the streets with pitchforks and lanterns, people took to Reddit, the popular community and social news Web site, and started scouring images posted online from the bombings.

One Reddit forum told users to search for ”people carrying black bags,” and noted that “if they look suspicious, then post them. Then people will try and follow their movements using all the images.”

In the process, each time a scrap of information was discovered â€" the color of a hat, the type of straps on a backpack, the weighted droop of a bag â€" it was passed out on Twitter like “Wanted” posters tacked to lampposts. It didn’t matter whether it was right, wrong or even completely made up (some images posted to forums had been manipulated) â€" off it went, fiction and fact indistinguishable.

Some misinformation online landed on the front page of The New York Post, incorrectly identifying an innocent high school student as a suspect.

Later in the week, the Web wrongly identified one of the suspects as  a student from Brown University who went missing earlier this month. As Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic noted in a lengthy study trying to understand how the student was named a suspect by the public and not by the police, the information appears to have been plucked out of thin cyber air. “Perhaps this is some kind of hoax perpetrated by some unknown group,” he wrote.

Although the real suspects were eventually identified, investigators have now come out to say that these online crowds were doing more damage than good in their quest to help.

On Sunday The Washington Post offered a detailed account of how investigators found the suspects, with thousands of local and federal officials engaging in a “painstaking and mind-numbing” search through videos and photos from the area. But in addition to combing through a million needles in a million haystacks, the Boston police commissioner, Edward Davis, told the paper that the authorities partly released images of the real suspects to try to control the flood of misinformation flowing onto social media sites where “online vigilante detectives” might have tarnished the investigation.

Perhaps the scariest aspect of these crowd-like investigations is that when information is incorrect, no one is held responsible.

As my colleague David Carr noted in his column this week, “even good reporters with good sources can end up with stories that go bad.” But the difference between CNN, The Associated Press or The New York Post getting it wrong, is that those names are held accountable when they publish incorrect news. No one is going to remember, or punish, the users on Reddit or Twitter who incorrectly identify random high school runners and missing college students as terrorists.

There is one area where the online crowd can help in a situation like this. When the correct information is released by the trained authorities, like the Boston Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, people can do their best to ensure that it is circulated through the crowd and seen by as many people as possible. There’s definitely wisdom in doing that.

Web Helps Musicians Sell Shares of Royalties

Web Helps Musicians Sell Shares of Royalties

Michal Czerwonka for The New York Times

The songwriter and producer Preston Glass in his studio at his home in Los Angeles.

As a songwriter and producer for stars like Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, Preston Glass receives a comfortable stream of music royalties. But when he needed to make a substantial investment to embark on the next phase of his career â€" as a performing artist in his own right â€" he had few options to raise the money, he said.

“Me and most writers can’t walk into a bank,” Mr. Glass said in an interview from his home studio in Los Angeles. “Banks don’t understand how songwriting works, how the whole business of royalties works.”

So Mr. Glass turned to the Royalty Exchange, a Web site where musicians can sell parts of their royalty income to investors. He put 15 of his songs on the block â€" including “Miss You Like Crazy,” a Top 10 hit for Ms. Cole in 1989, of which Mr. Glass was a co-writer â€" and raised $158,000. Mr. Glass retains most of his rights to those songs, but will now share part of the income with an investor whenever they are played on the radio or streamed online.

Since it was founded two years ago, the Royalty Exchange, based in Raleigh, N.C., has held 18 auctions, raising about $750,000. But Sean Peace, the company’s chief executive, envisions it as a robust marketplace where musicians can capitalize on their work and investors can find a somewhat exotic asset that could still bring in steady earnings.

“Most musicians have no idea that they can take their royalties and reinvest in themselves,” Mr. Peace said. “If they could get $80,000 up front for selling 50 percent of their royalties, that can be game-changing.”

The music industry is full of bitter stories of musicians who have given up royalty rights for a fraction of their future value. Eli Ball, the founder of Lyric Financial, a competing service that gives musicians short-term advances on their royalties in exchange for a fee, thinks that musicians should not sell their rights.

“It’s too easy for songwriters to sell off an asset that took you a career to build and is going to be gone forever,” Mr. Ball said.

But Mr. Glass said he liked the Royalty Exchange because he could define exactly which rights to sell and which to retain. His sale involved what is known as the songwriter’s share of public performance; it does not cover sales of CDs or downloads, and it does not involve any change to the song’s actual copyright. (He also is a national artist representative for Lyric Financial.)

The intricacies of royalties can be confusing even to many in the industry. But Mr. Peace said his buyers are told what they will and will not receive, and are given at least three years of back earnings reports. For a collection of songs written for R&B acts like Usher and TLC that was up for auction recently, bidders saw that most of the $22,975 in annual earnings was generated by three tracks.

The company takes a 2.5 percent fee from the buyer and anywhere from 5 percent to 12.5 percent from the seller, depending on the size of the deal. It also takes 2.5 percent of future earnings from the buyer, as an administration charge.

Mr. Peace, whose background is in technology, started the Royalty Exchange in 2011 with two others after first trying a similar idea with SongVest, which sold interests in songs as high-priced memorabilia items for fans. But that model tended to work only with big artists, he said, so the Royalty Exchange instead aims at investors with bundles of songs.

The idea of royalties as a salable asset has a mixed record. In 1997, David Bowie raised $55 million by selling a 10-year bond in some of his royalties, with a fixed interest rate. But by 2004 they were downgraded amid industry tumult, and lawsuits over administration fees and other issues marred similar bonds.

The complexity of music royalties is another concern. Michael S. Simon, the chief executive of the Harry Fox Agency, one of the industry’s primary royalty-collecting groups, said that a potential investor needed considerable sophistication.

“You need to understand life of copyright, you need to understand the potential ramifications of legislation that could affect life of copyright, and you need to understand termination rights,” Mr. Simon said. “Those are three things that most people don’t understand, let alone how to predict revenue in the music business.” (Termination rights let authors recover copyrights to their works from third parties after a certain period.)

Martin Diessner, an investor who lives in South Africa who bought about half of Mr. Glass’s offering, said that being an outsider allowed him to spot a good investment where others might see risk.

“The reason why I think it’s less risky is probably because I don’t understand the music industry,” said Mr. Diessner, who is now on the Royalty Exchange’s advisory board. “Everyone who is in the industry sees it from the inside out, while I see it from the outside and maybe don’t have a negative perception.”

Most of the Royalty Exchange’s sales have dealt with the publishing rights of songs, which have to do with songwriting, as opposed to their recordings, which are controlled by a separate copyright. Publishing income has been seen as more stable, but it is also subject to shifts. Last year Ascap and BMI signed a new deal changing the method for how radio companies pay royalties. According to BMI’s most recent annual report, the change has already resulted in a 3 percent drop in revenues.

Mr. Peace said that like any investment, royalties involved risk, and that its buyers were given a significant amount of information for evaluation.

As for Mr. Glass, the sale has helped him buy new equipment for his studio, including a sitar and various vintage instruments, that will help him as he starts a new phase in his career.

“I wanted to be competitive, not only as a producer and writer but as an artist, too,” he said. “I wanted to invest in myself, to be able to use some of the royalties that I have built up, almost like real estate.”

A version of this article appeared in print on April 22, 2013, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Web Helps Musicians Sell Shares Of Royalties.

A Comedy Show That Comes via a Hashtag

A Comedy Show That Comes via a Hashtag

Comedy Central will introduce a free, ad-supported app, CC: Stand-Up, which will offer videos of comedians like Amy Schumer, above, performing routines.

Next week, Comedy Central will host a five-day comedy festival that includes a lineup of legends like Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner alongside popular young comics like Amy Schumer and the director Paul Feig.

But there will be no smoky comedy clubs. No lone microphones and stools positioned on stage. No two-drink minimum.

The festival will take place almost entirely on Twitter, with comedians posting video snippets of routines and round tables and posting jokes using the hashtag #ComedyFest.

The partnership between Comedy Central, a cable cannel owned by Viacom, and Twitter represents the evolving relationship between television and social media. Twitter is often incorporated into programming with viewers using the site as a second screen while watching live television. But slowly, Twitter is becoming an outlet on which to watch video.

In January, Twitter introduced Vine, a video-sharing service that lets users post six-second clips â€" brevity that matches Twitter’s model of 140-character messages.

On Tuesday, as part of the festival, the comedian Steve Agee will host a “Vine Dining” party, telling stories in six-second videos. The cast of HBO’s “Veep” shares “vines” from the set, as does the cast of ABC’s hit “Scandal.” A&E puts 30-second videos of “Duck Dynasty” on Twitter and the entire third season of Fox’s “Raising Hope” had its debut on the site.

“It’s not just hashtags appearing on your TV screen, but TV content appearing in your Twitter feed,” said Debra Aho Williamson, a social media analyst at eMarketer.

For Comedy Central, the Twitter partnership is a small part of a larger strategy to become a branded entertainment company that does not rely just on nightly television viewing. In a changing media landscape, the channel’s series like “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “South Park,” and their young, mostly male audiences, have led the shift to online video viewing.

As early as next month, Comedy Central will introduce a free, ad-supported app, called CC: Stand-Up. Designed to look and feel like a cable channel devoted to stand-up, the app will offer videos of comedians performing routines.

A recommendation algorithm (similar to the one used by Amazon) will allow users to discover new comedians. If you watched Jeff Ross, for example, a web of other comics would pop up based on routines with similar topics (like mass transit), style (like dark humor) or other relationships (both like marshmallows).

“One of these days we will be ambivalent about where people watch Comedy Central,” said Steve Grimes, the channel’s senior vice president for programming and multiplatform strategy.

At least for now Viacom makes the vast majority of its revenue from cable subscribers who watch television the old-fashioned way and the advertisers who pay to reach them there. The company must adapt to the changing ways viewers watch video, but they must also preserve profits.

Last year, Nickelodeon’s ratings dropped, partly because shows like “Dora the Explorer” and “SpongeBob SquarePants” had been too readily available on streaming platforms like Netflix.

Nickelodeon’s predicament has served as a cautionary tale for Comedy Central as it extends its programming onto other devices. Comedy Central’s total prime-time audience has fallen to a nightly average of 816,000 viewers in the current season to date, from 1.1 million in 2008, according to Nielsen.

Of those viewers, 258,000 are men ages 18 to 34, a demographic that disproportionately uses social media while watching television. In a study conducted by Nielsen in September and titled “How Chatter Matters in TV Viewing,” 54 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds said they had started watching a TV show because of Facebook, and 21 percent credited Twitter.

Fred Graver, head of TV at Twitter, said partnering with Comedy Central and others was not about turning the service into a television distribution platform, but developing deeper relationships with programmers that eventually lead to more people joining Twitter. The relationship, he said, can be mutually beneficial.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 22, 2013, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: A Channel Uses Twitter To Showcase Its Comedy.

High Tech Sports Goggles: Vital Data, or Too Much Information?

Sports Goggles Can Provide Vital Data and Distraction

Oakley, the eyewear company, makes a $600 ski goggle that comes with a warning in the package: Do not operate product while skiing.

Zeal HD camera goggles allow athletes to make videos.

It is an admonition that should be taken with a grain of salt, said Chris Petrillo, a product manager at the company. Of course, he said, the digital goggles are meant for skiing and snowboarding.

“Welcome to the world of lawyers and litigation,” he said.

But maybe the lawyers are on to something.

Safety advocates say the concept of high-tech displays for goggles â€" and for other sports eyewear â€" is information overload run amok, particularly when people are using them at high speeds.

Yet Oakley, based in Foothill Ranch, Calif., is one of a handful of sports eyewear companies betting that thrill seekers and athletes crave the equivalent of a cockpit dashboard while skiing, snowboarding, cycling and running.

The companies are in the vanguard of the next wave of personal technology, called wearable computing, which promises to further shrink the barrier between users and the information they seek. Most notably, Google is expected to introduce soon its computerized glasses, called Google Glass, which will perform many of the same functions as smartphones.

The goggles made by Oakley, and similarly high-tech pairs made by competitors, have a display in the lens that shows changing speed and altitude, and can display incoming text messages. The goggles are tributes to miniaturization, equipped with global positioning technology and wireless Bluetooth to stream calls and music from phones. They can even be configured to show videos that are being shot in real time from a camera attached to the top of the lens or embedded in it.

The consumer base is small but growing, perhaps several hundred thousand people using various forms of high-tech eyewear, people in the industry say. But they also say this is the future, and some customers swear by them as performance-enhancing gadgets â€" as long as users are careful.

Harry Puterbaugh, 57, a farmer from Peoria, Ill., and his wife and two daughters, 13 and 14, use high-tech goggles made by Zeal Optics of Boulder, Colo., on ski trips to Aspen and surrounding slopes in Colorado. Mr. Puterbaugh likes being able to track how many runs and vertical feet he has skied, measures that he says help him push himself.

He has another pair of goggles, one with a built-in camera that lets him take videos of his action, or his daughters, as they tear down the mountain. A little image in the corner of his eye allows him to see what is being captured, but he said he learned quickly to ignore the image.

His daughters have learned to be cautious too.

“When my girls first started using them, they would get in trouble because they were watching their speed and not paying attention to what they were doing,” he said. “They would fall, but you only do that once before you realize it’s not a good thing to do.”

Besides, he said of the little screen, “once you get used to it, you can pick it up without having to take focus off the mountain itself.”

Therein lies the rub. Safety advocates say it is not possible, as seductive as it might sound, to take in simultaneously two streams of information: the real-life action, and the virtual performance data.

“You’re effectively skiing blind; you’re going to miss a mogul or hit somebody,” said David Strayer, a neuroscientist at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, who for more than two decades has studied the science of attention and distraction. Even the briefest glance at the information takes over a skier’s field of vision and focus, he said.

It is not only makers of ski goggles who are getting into the high-tech eyewear act. Other companies are producing or developing such specs for cyclists or runners, giving them so-called heads-up displays. Want to know your heart rate or mile time? Just glance inside the lens, sparing the trouble of looking down at a watch or phone app.

To the companies, the technology is an outgrowth of the demand for instant performance data and feedback; it is mobile computing for the fleet-of-foot, never a millisecond lost.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 22, 2013, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: High-Tech Sports Goggles: Vital Data, or Too Much Information?.

Daily Report: Tablets Bring Style to the Checkout Line

SEATTLE â€" The humble cash register, a device that seems sprung from the imagination of an accountant, has become the darling of designers, adding a dash of style to the most ordinary daily transactions, Nick Wingfield writes in The New York Times on Monday.

With the advent of tablets, particularly the iPad, many stores have traded in their clunky cash registers for mobile devices. Now, though, they are dressing up those tablets with inventive accessories to make them both more pleasant to look at and more practical for cashiers.

Retailers from doughnut shops to department stores are putting in tablet-based cash registers that hang on the wall or can swivel around like desk lamps to face customers. At Coco Donuts in downtown Portland, Ore., iPad registers hang on a track on the wall, and employees slide them over to customers at the counters, who can sign for their bill, barely missing a bite.

Some designers are using eye-catching materials like bamboo to make iPad enclosures that scream for attention; others are using minimalist designs that make the register all but disappear. And sales associates are plucking the tablets off countertops so they can take orders from anywhere in a store using tiny credit card readers attached to the devices.

Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream is ditching the button-encrusted Casio monoliths at its Seattle stores, replacing them with six Apple iPads that sit on stylish, handcrafted plywood pedestals engraved with the store’s logo of a dog (a Boston terrier and French bulldog mix) licking an ice cream cone.

“The new iPads are a huge aesthetic improvement over our old clunky plastic registers,” said Kristina McDonnell, Molly Moon’s director of operations, who ordered the stands from Tinkering Monkey, an Oakland, Calif., studio.

Cash registers have gone through many mutations since they were first introduced in the late 1800s by an Ohio merchant looking to combat employee theft. They were electrified in the early 20th century, and more recently, got touch-screen displays.