Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you'll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

Does Anyone Outside Silicon Valley Even Want a Smartwatch?
by Kevin Roose,
New York Magazine


The first wave of smartwatches has its popular entries (ahem, Pebble), but widespread adoption has yet to take hold. With Google's Android Wear initiative, new options bring closer ties with the operating system and improved aesthetics. But is that enough to attract the masses? Do people really want an extension of their phone as a wrist-worn device?

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intensive care unit lcd monitor for several patients

It's pretty amazing that humanity has invented a small electrical device that can be used to ensure a heart keeps a steady beat, but pacemakers have to be maintained, replaced -- sometimes they can even become infected. Researchers say they're working on a less invasive solution: a "biological pacemaker." It's a form of gene therapy that implants the heart with a gene-carrying virus that creates a "sino-atrail node," a collection of neurons that acts as a natural metronome for the body's most important muscle.

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Shoot The Moon

It turns out that the Moon could be habitable. Sort of. NASA writes that some of the holes in our moon's surface might actually be caves where future astronauts could hole up and guard themselves from radiation, micrometeorites and massive temperature changes when day turns to night, aiding future exploration. The aeronautics outfit says that these caves could be the result of a few different actions, including sub-surface lava draining away from an area and vibrations causing the roofs of resultant voids to collapse. The only way to know for sure, though, is to physically check them out -- there's only so much that photos from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter can tell us. Who knows, maybe once astronauts start delving below the lunar surface they'll find a wizard or two.

[Image credit: Associated Press]

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Amazon's video service is well-rounded, with both video-on-demand selection and Prime all you can eat viewing, but there's one big hole -- Android. Even though Amazon has apps for its Android-based Kindle family of devices (along with iOS, game consoles, Roku and other TV boxes), the rest of the Android family tree is left out of the party. That could change soon however, as PC Advisor reports Amazon UK Marketing & Merchandising Director said that an app for the platform is "imminent." The news came at the firm's Christmas show (yes, in July, just go with it), however it's unclear if it will apply to both phones and tablets. He also indicated that work on 4K content is progressing, confirming what we'd heard at CES, but there's no word on when the high-res video will hit Amazon's service. Despite repeated attempts to contact Amazon PR in the US and UK we have not received a response concerning the report, but if an app arrives soon it would help make Amazon a much better competitor against the likes of Netflix and Hulu.



If you've been on Twitter long enough, chances are that you've sent at least one or two direct messages (DMs) that you'd rather not see again. Deleting any regretful conversations in one fell swoop should you use the service across multiple devices isn't as simple as it should be, though, and as of now, destroying a private-picture thread from your phone might not mean it'll be missing when you load from your laptop. Well, the microblogging giant knows how much of a pain this is and is working to address it. The company issued a tweet (naturally) saying that it's rolling out an update to make deleting DMs "more consistent" across web and mobile over the next few weeks. What's more, Twitter says that it's working on an update to bring your entire DM history to the Android and iOS apps as well. Whether or not that's a good thing depends on your messaging habits, we'd imagine.

[Image credit: AFP/Getty Images]

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Popularity just isn't easy. That's something cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, are starting to grasp. Yes, they're now being accepted as a formal method of payment by more and more places, but some government entities still can't figure out how to treat them properly, particularly in the US. Case in point: the state of New York, which is proposing that companies exchanging virtual currency with consumers go through a regulatory process. BitLicense, a plan that's been in the works for nearly a year, would require these cryptocurrency banks to verify the identity of customers and, in some cases, ask for more information from "high-risk customers, high-volume accounts, or accounts on which a suspicious activity report has been filed." But that's not necessarily a bad thing, not for everyone anyway. "These regulations include provisions to help safeguard customer assets, protect against cyber hacking, and prevent the abuse of virtual currencies for illegal activity, such as money laundering." Benjamin M. Lawsky, superintendent of New York's Department of Financial Services, stated in a press release about to the proposal.

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The restructuring plans from Microsoft caused a ripple effect throughout the company, with its recently acquired Nokia Devices and Services business being the most affected one. Now, as part of this, The Guardian reports that Nokia's MixRadio music-streaming app is expected to spin out and live as a standalone service. Essentially, this means MixRadio will no longer be limited to Microsoft's platform, though it's still going to come pre-loaded on Windows Phone handsets made by Nokia. Not that the world needs another streaming service for tunes, but the eventual spin-off would give the MixRadio app the chance its curation features to other platforms such as iOS and Android. At the moment, however, there are still things to work out: "I've been meeting with potential investors around the world in the last few weeks. We have very strong interest from investors in the US, Europe and Asia, and we remain open for further discussions," Nokia's Jyrki Rosenberg, VP of Entertainment, told the British publication.


Netflix Garners Two Top Show Nominations With 'Cards,' 'Orange'

If you've ever wanted to keep those embarrassing Netflix choices from family members or your social-networking pals, you might soon be in luck. According to the folks over at Gigaom, the streaming subscription service is currently testing a "Privacy Mode." This means that viewed titles won't appear in that Recently Viewed section on the main screen and they also won't factor into future recommendations. Select users across all of the company's locales are privy to the feature as part of the trial. Of course, there's a chance that it may never become a staple in the settings menu -- that's dependent on the results of the experiment.

[Photo credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images]


The top 15 smartphones you can buy right now

OK, so it usually doesn't cost as much as a car, but a smartphone is still an important lifestyle purchase. And it will probably be at your side 24/7 (if you're anything like us). There's always a bit of hemming and hawing, for sure, but we've distilled the options down to a short list of the top handsets, with top picks for each OS. Head down to the gallery below for a quick stroll through our selections or check out our full buyer's guide for the lowdown on the best smartphones, tablets, laptops and wearables that your hard-earned money can buy.


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