PTJ 149 News: BBQ and Robots, Too!

This summer is turning out to be a big one for space news and demoted-planet Pluto is due for its star turn next week. NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft, which woke up from hibernation last December, had a bit of a glitch that knocks it into Safe Mode on July 4th, but scientists say the craft is ready for its close flyby of Pluto on the morning of July 14th. If everything goes according to plan, New Horizons is expected to pass less than 7,800 hundred miles from the surface of little Pluto, which is relatively close in space terms; The New York Times has a great video on the topic. (And earlier this week in space, scientists on the Philae lander project were hoping to find signs of alien life on old Comet 67P, but comet experts are now pooh-poohing the notion.)

More than a dozen pre-eminent cryptographers and computer scientists have come together to produce a paper called “Keys Under Doormats: Mandating Insecurity By Requiring Government Access to All Data and Communications,” and in this paper, they challenge the intelligence agencies of the United States and the United Kingdom over government desires for special backdoors to be built into encrypted communications. The cryptographers find the government proposals to be unprincipled and unworkable. Many of the same cryptographers came together back in the 1990s to take down the Clinton administration’s proposed Clipper Chip, which would have provided a hardware backdoor into encrypted communications.

BBmicrobitThe British Broadcasting Corporation does more than just global news shows, historical costume dramas and Doctor Who. This week, the Beeb introduced its new initiative to help kids get into tech. The organization, along with 29 corporate partners, is giving out a programmable, pocket-sized “BBC Micro:Bit” bare-bones computer to all Year 7 students. Microsoft, ARM and Samsung were among the corporate partners on the project.

While Samsung helps out in the UK, its overall corporate intake dipped in the second quarter this year. The South Korea-based company reported a four-percent drop in 2Q, thanks in part to weaker-than-expected sales of its new phones. You can, however, get $200 off a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 if you buy it before July 26th.

tosserSpeaking of Microsoft, the Redmond giant is gearing up for its Windows 10 launch at the end of the month. The RTM, or Release to Manufacturing edition, is reportedly out the door this week, the preview of the revamped Bing Maps arrived and the Xbox Music service has now been rebranded as Groove. Xbox Video is now called Movies & TV, and there’s a special Windows 10 beta version of Minecraft on the way July 29th as well. And over in the experimental labs of Microsoft Garage, a new app called Tossup (shown here) is out now for Android and iOS smartphones.

Word from the Appleverse blogs has it that selected third-party accessory makers hoping to sell their wares in official Apple Stores will have to use new packaging co-designed by Apple itself. The reported shift is said to be part of a transition to a “premium feel” for products sold in Apple emporiums, as well as reducing clutter on store shelves.

Also in Apple news, many Kaisers, er, users were up in arms last week when it was discovered that the iOS 8.4 update that brought the Apple Music service into the world also took away the longstanding music Home Sharing feature. Home Sharing, which had been around since iTunes 9 back in 2009, allowed the streaming of one’s music library between devices and Macs and PCs running iTunes. While most people assumed the feature was yanked due to the legal tangle of music rights wadded up in Apple Music, Eddy Cue, Apple Senior VP and Taylor Swift best buddy, said the company is working to restore Home Sharing in the upcoming iOS 9.

Photographers who like Instagram but feel the 640 x 640 resolution was way too low for quality presentation will be happy to know that the service has quietly goosed up the rez to 1080 x 1080 pixels. A company representative said the Instagram apps for Android and iOS are bring updated to take advantage of the new feature.

goproAlso in photography news, GoPro, which makes those small wearable video cameras for recording first-person action adventures, now has an even smaller camera on the way. The company’s new model, the Hero4 Session, is half the size of the Hero4 Black model. The new tinycam is expected to start shipping next week and has a decidedly not-tiny price tag of $400.

Twitter has added the ability for users to list their birthdays on their Twitter profiles. If you have a massively public feed or draw a lot of hate tweets, though, perhaps you want to skip the sharing there.

Giant robot battles just aren’t for the movies anymore. Last week, MegaBot USA threw down the big iron gauntlet at Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industry and challenged the company to a giant robot duel with a video. Naturally, Suidobashi responded with its own video to accept and the battle is on for next year. Get ready for some mecha-stomping good times!

bbqbotAnd finally, summer is here and the backyard grilling and barbecuing is in full flame. Texas and the rest of the South may get all the press for the quality barbecue eats, but don’t forget about that Yankee ingenuity. Way up yonder in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 16 engineering students from Harvard University have built what Wired is calling “the ultimate BBQ Bot” that brings science to the smoke. Admit it: you are totally hungry now, aren’t you?

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