PTJ 123 News: Same Old Lang Syne

Will the Drama Llama ever leave Sony’s living room?  While US officials are thinking North Korea had some help or perhaps subcontracted the job, the hermit kingdom is still denying involvement and threatening retaliation, (as it often does). Not everyone is convinced North Korea did the hit, however, as some cybersecurity experts are questioning the FBI’s investigation into the matter and are now dubious as to the assumed motives and methods.

Speaking of The Interview, the film made about $3 million in theaters and about $15 million in online streams at Google Play, YouTube and Xbox Video on Christmas Day. Also on Christmas Day: hackers took down Sony’s PlayStation network, as well as Microsoft’s Xbox Live network in what was thought to be a opportune-yet-unrelated-to-North-Korea attack by the Lizard Squad.

And yet, a hacker’s work is never done. A member of Europe’s Chaos Computer Club is claiming he can fake a fingerprint and potentially fool a fingerprint scanner with high-quality digital photos of the aforementioned finger taken from afar and commercially available software. A video of the demonstration is on YouTube, but it’s in German. (Sprechen Sie Deutsch?) The Chaos Computer Club has claimed to have beaten Apple’s Touch ID scanner on the iPhone 5S before, and say vulnerabilities still exist in the iPhone 6.

There are a lot of iPhone 6’s out there now after the gift-giving season. According to the analytics firm Flurry, 51% of new device activations around the world from December 19th to December 25th were for Apple devices. Samsung had second place with 18% of new device activations and Microsoft had third place with 5.8%. (Apple also got a patent for a “smart stylus” this week, so get ready for those iSty and Apple Pen rumors.)

apple stylus

Sony may have had a rough year, but its old PlayStation 3 game consoles are doing their part for science, like helping crunch data in the study of black holes and gravitational waves. The New York Times has the story of how a scientist in the University of Dartmouth’s Physics Department has been making his own supercomputers by networking together stacks of old PS3s.

In space news, a recently discovered comet called 2014 Q2, also known as Lovejoy, should be visible in the night sky on the Northern Hemisphere for much of January if you live in an area free of light pollution.  For experienced stargazers, the comet is currently near the constellation Lepus the Hare and is passing close to Orion’s belt on its way to the constellation Taurus the Bull by January 9th.

lovejoy

It the Department of Out with the Old, Yahoo has now shut down its long-serving Yahoo Directory, a page of categorized topic links that had been around since 1994. And while it seems like Internet Explorer has been Microsoft’s browser since the dawn of Web Time, but new reports say that the company is building an entirely new browser codenamed Spartan for its upcoming Windows 10 system.

In legal news, the United States Bankruptcy Court here in Manhattan has ruled that Aereo — the now-squashed teeny tiny antenna company that got sued out of business for redistributing broadcast TV signals — can sell off its technology to the highest bidder.

Facebook has apologized for its Year in Review feature, an algorithm that created an automatic slideshow from a user’s photos that could be shared with Facebook friends. While it was meant to be a celebration of the year’s best moments, all capped with the tagline “It’s been a great year” some users complained that the software pulled in photos from sad events they’d rather not highlight. (For those who didn’t have tragedy but hated the photos Facebook pulled, keep in mind you can edit the results.)

yir

The Consumer Electronics Association’s CES tradeshow opens next week in Las Vegas and its planners say the 2015 show will be “the largest ever Internet of Things showcase” with more than 900 exhibitors rolling out their future wares. New products for home security and climate control systems, automotive connectivity, kitchen appliances and more are expected, as well as new innovations in sensor technology.

And finally, the Alternet site has put out its list of Biggest Product Fails of 2014. At the top of the flop list: the Amazon Fire Phone. At least the Fire Phone is topping a list somewhere, although it’s probably not the one Amazon had in mind. Happy 2015, y’all!

fire

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