The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Tech Tuesday – April 29, 2014

App Alert: Oyster

Founded in 2012 by Eric Stromberg, Andrew Brown and Willem Van Lancker, Oysteroffers a subscription-based service that is similar to applications like Netflix or Spotify but for books. For a monthly fee that is less than the cost of an average book ($9.95), customers can have unlimited access to over 200,000 books.

Long gone are the days where you stand in the bookstore debating the value and worth of a $12.99 book and the days when you contemplate the actual location of leisure books in Hagerty Library. No longer will you feel obligated to continue reading that terrible book you purchased three weeks ago and has been collecting dust on your coffee table since chapter two.

Maybe you are a reading enthusiast and your college-strapped budget cannot keep up with your desires to read, or maybe you aren’t a reading enthusiast because you have no clue where to start and are afraid to commit — either way, Oyster can solve both problems all within the one device that has become a staple for college — your smartphone. Because of the new level of convenience that Oyster has created, we may start to think twice before logging into Facebook and “pick up” a book to read instead.

Smart Student: Ethan Keiser

Junior computer science major Ethan Keiser has created an educational application that brings together students and tutors using GPS functionality on your smartphone. Study Tree, as Keiser named it, is a system that allows users to sign up as tutors or students. During the sign-up process, students and tutors create a public profile and set up their credit card and bank information. After signing up, students are able to post job listings for courses they are seeking help in, and tutors can build their profile with courses in which they are proficient.

Using Study Tree, both students and tutors are able to seek each other out by criteria such as distance, course, price and rating. Once a prospective student or tutor is found, either party is able to initiate an instant message conversation, but ultimately the student chooses which tutor to hire. After a time and place is agreed upon and the student and tutor meet, the student opens Study Tree and begins a tutoring session. Study Tree will take care of timing the session and processing payment so that both the student and tutor can focus on the material and not the money.

Keiser said that Study Tree is currently in the beta testing stages and has been submitted to the App Store. He recently had the opportunity to hire a fellow Drexel student through the Drexel co-op system. For more information about Study Tree, or if you’d like to view a demo and sign up, visit studytreeapp.com.

Working World: Killswitch

Smartphone thefts are on the rise — you don’t need me to tell you that thanks to the public safety advisory emails and Drexel Alerts — but what if I told you that negotiations were in the works between lawmakers and manufacturers to implement new technology that would decrease those numbers drastically? Would you consider upgrading your device to have these features?

This new technology is called “Killswitch” and is very similar to what some apps, such as “Find my iPhone” and the Android Device Manager, offer today. What makes this technology different, however, is the initiation of services required by the owner of the phone. Currently, smartphone owners must set this service up and then activate the service once their device is stolen. The kill switch, however, would be activated automatically upon report that the device was stolen and would then render the phone useless for reactivation.

The Huffington Post recently published a study conducted by William Duckworth, a statistics professor at Creighton University, in which he “estimates that consumers spend about $500 million each year replacing stolen phones and around $2 billion each year buying premium cell phone insurance through wireless carriers.” Despite these findings, there is still a large ongoing debate about the effectiveness of the new feature since phones could still be pawned for parts.

The proposed policy states that the kill switch feature would become mandatory on all smartphone devices manufactured in the United States as of June 2015, but is still being debated by lawmakers across the country. As heavy users of smartphones in University City, Drexel students have the potential to be positively affected by the implementation of a kill switch feature.

Maria Elena Marinelli is a junior information technology major and the assistant web production manager for The Triangle.