PTJ 141 News: Go, Greased Lightning!

collectionsGoogle didn’t have much luck dethroning Facebook as everyone’s go-to social media experience, so is the Google+ site now aiming to be a challenger elsewhere? The new Google+ Collections debuted this week and it’s billed as “a new way to group your posts by topic.” Like, uh, on Pinterest?

Facebook announced its new Internet.org platform this week, which includes “non-exclusive partnerships with mobile operators to offer free basic Internet services to people through Internet.org.”  While this sounds good and noble in a press release, detractors to the project, including Josh Levy, the advocacy director at a global digital rights group, said Internet.org is really Facebooknet because Facebook is holding the keys to the gate of a walled garden and, you know, that’s not so much for Net Neutrality.

Microsoft released a Public Preview Version of its Office 2016 desktop suite. New charts! New graphs! It’s the best Christmas ever!

Comcast may have lost the war, but it spent some coin in its various battles to buy Time Warner. Ars Technica, which took a look at Comcast’s earnings report for the first quarter of 2015, notes $99 million listed in transaction-related costs. This is just another round on the tab however, as Comcast has spent a total (so far) of $336 million dollars spent in the $45.2 billion FAIL.

meerkatsSpeaking of cable giants, all those new livestreaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat could turn out to be a real pain in the wallet, with those sneaky users livestreaming paid content like boxing matches and HBO shows off their TVs for others to watch for free. Of course, many people remember Meerkat, the little app that made such a splash at SXSW until Twitter kicked it to the curb. But now Meerkat has snuggled up with Facebook and you can post your live video streams right to your Facebook page. So take that, Twitter.

Rumors of a new Apple TV box have been in the wind the past few weeks, and now Brian X. Chen of The New York Times reports that Apple is also revamping the minimalist remote control that comes with the box. The Apple Watch is also getting some design scrutiny, but this time, it’s from developers and curious members of the public who have discovered a secret charging port hidden in the connection slot of the lower watch band. At least one accessory maker, Reserve Strap, says the hidden jack is a six-pin diagnostic port that can be used for charging — and it plans to release a tool for connecting to the jack when it releases its $250 battery band this fall. Let’s see if Apple allows that, as it has just released its own developers’ guide for third-party watch bands.

NASA is developing its own 10-engine drone for use in science missions that can take off vertically like a helicopter and then fly like an airplane. The drone’s name is GL-10 and the GL stands for: Greased Lightning. (If you are of a certain age, you will now have the soundtrack from Grease stuck in your brain for the rest of the day.)

As for good news on the app-security front, the MIT Technology Review reports that some security researchers in France have come up with an automated system that can tell when Android apps on your phone or tablet quietly connect to user-tracking and ad-serving sites online. They plan to make their new program available soon in the Google Play store soon under the name No Such App, or NSA for short.

mayorAnd finally, did you complain when Foursquare split itself into two and called the other half Swarm — and all the mayorships, badges and points went away? The Foursquare blog announced this week that it plans to bring back the mayorships to Swarm and now you can unlock brand new stickers instead of the old badges. The people have spoken and have been heard — we want civic leadership in our apps!

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