PTJ 115 News: Charged Up

Want your cat music videos and surfing dog clips without having to sit through five seconds of annoying ads? Got cash? A vice president who heads the YouTube division at Google said this week the company is planning a paid version that will also be ad-free. No word on pricing yet, but they’re still working things out.

turboIf you’re not thrilled with any of the new phones so far this season, here’s a new one. Motorola’s latest handset is called the Droid Turbo and it boasts some impressive specifications, including a 21-megapixel camera, a 5.2-inch screen and claims of up to 48 hours between charges on the battery. (The included “Turbo charger” also claims to give you eight hours of power with just 15 minutes of juicing time.) The Turbo comes in red, black or white and it’s on sale through Verizon Wireless as of October 30.

Speaking of Verizon Wireless, astute observers including those at Wired magazine have noticed that Verizon Wireless has been quietly inserting a string of alphanumeric characters into the data flying between its wireless customers and the websites they visit.  Verizon calls that string of characters a “Unique Identifier Header,” or UIDH. It’s part of the company’s Internet advertising program and basically functions as a serial number or a “perma-cookie” that advertisers can use to identify you. As one can imagine, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other privacy-minded groups are not happy about this. If you want to see if your mobile device has been tagged with a tracking number, visit lessonslearned.org/sniff.

Verizon is not the only one getting a growl from the watchdogs. The Federal Trade Commission has  filed a complaint against AT&T alleging that the company has mislead consumers with its unlimited data promises — by not informing those customers that part of their unlimited data plans include having their data throttled by up to 90 percent. Go get ’em, FTC!

Apple Pay has been up and running for the past week or so, but some companies are banding together to promote other contactless-payment services instead. CVS and Rite Aid are among those declining to take Apple Pay at the cash register now, reportedly choosing the just-hacked CurrentC instead. Walgreens, however, is happy to take your Apple tap.

HTML5Even though it’s been in use for several years, the official standard for HTML5 has been published in its final and approved form by the World Wide Web Consortium this week. (Now that that’s done, it’s on to the HTML 5.1 standards draft for the ever-busy W3C!)

Microsoft has issued a security advisory for vulnerability in its PowerPoint software and other programs that use the Microsoft OLE code. The issue effects pretty much all supported versions of Windows out there. So expect a patch soon, check out the security advisory for suggested workarounds and don’t open PowerPoint presentations or other Office documents from strangers.

In Not Scary Microsoft news, the company has knocked another $50 off the price of an Xbox One game console. The sale starts November 2, and brings the price of a basic Xbox One down to about $350. Your move, Sony.

firestickAlthough Amazon’s weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings and epic dud known as the Fire Phone may have its investors a bit cranky, the MegaÜberEverything Store is cranking out new products. This week, Amazon announced its new Fire TV Stick, a $39 competitor to Google’s similar Chromecast HDMI dongle.

All those sassy TV ads and data-deal promotions seem to have paid off for T-Mobile. The carrier just reported its largest financial quarter in its company history and now has 52.9 million total customers and Sprint in its targeting computer.

cometMeanwhile, up in space, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe is still chasing comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko. Rosetta’a sensors have even been able to detect the chemical composition of the flying ice ball — down to what it smells like.  According to a blog post on the European Space Agency’s site, “The perfume of 67P/C-G is quite strong, with the odour of rotten eggs (hydrogen sulphide), horse stable (ammonia), and the pungent, suffocating odour of formaldehyde.” Or, as Cnet put it, the comet smells like “rotten eggs and pee.” (Which is not unlike certain subway stations in the New York City metropolitan area on a Sunday morning.)

While the explosion of Orbital Science’s Antares rocket this week was most unfortunate, the space mission goes on. NASA is getting ready to test its new Orion unmanned spacecraft in early December and if you hurry and sign up before midnight on October 31st, your name can go up on the test flight. As part of its public awareness and outreach efforts, the space agency taking the names of everyone who signs up for an “Orion boarding pass” online and inscribing them to digitized list on a  microchip inside the capsule. NASA is also inviting social media users to apply for credentials to attend Orion launch events at several of its facilities around the country.

orion

And finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained why Apple killed off the beloved-by-many iPod Classic last month. Said Mr. Cook at a tech conference this week: “We couldn’t get the parts anymore, not anywhere on Earth.” NASA, you have a new mission.

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