PTJ 87 News: Checks and Balances

Another year, another pile of April Fools’ Day Jokes from tech companies. As usual, general wackiness ensued and even the CERN site played along as it announced a move to Comic Sans as its typeface for official communications. Try as they may, however, nobody is ever going to top the ThinkGeek site for April Fools’ whimsy. The nerd emporium had its usual display of fake products up for April 1st. This year’s crop included Rosetta Stone® for Klingon, a Laser-Guided Tactical Necktie and a Flux Capacitor Car Charger.

rosetta stone

Back in the non-prank world, Facebook did actually agree to pay two billion dollars for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset company last week. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post that games are just the start. The move did put virtual reality back in the news, long after everyone stopped talking about Second Life. But Facebook is looking at the future here and it’s not alone. As part of a series on the World Wide Web at 25, the Pew Internet and American Life Project had several big thinkers predict digital life in the year 2025.

Microsoft has updated its Bing search engine to include a Snapshot feature to help flesh out queries. Yahoo continues its move to be more of a media and social media company and less of a search-and- services site. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company is in talks to buy the News Distribution Network video service, along the deal is still unconfirmed at this point.

While we’re touring downtown Rumorville: Reuters and other news organizations are reporting that Apple is gearing up to make parts for the iPhone 6. It’ll be fall before you know it. (And finally in the Not a Rumor column: The Amazon Fire TV box, to be discussed on next week’s show.)

Lawyers for Apple and Samsung picked jurors Monday for their latest patent infringement fight.  Opening arguments in the case — Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Company Limited 12-00630 — began Tuesday morning.

In government news, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has mandated that all vehicles less than 10,0000 pounds include review video cameras to cut down on backup-related accidents. That smartphone kill switch law proposed by members of the U.S. Senate a few months back could potentially save consumers $2.6 billion dollars if it’s passed, according to a report from researchers at Creighton University. (The wireless industry has previously spoken out against the bill, saying hackers could wipe people’s phones for fun, although some sources have pointed out that smartphone companies and carriers could lose money on those smartphone insurance policies they sell to customers.) And the Federal Communications Commission voted this week to open up another bunch o’ megahertz for use by Wi-Fi devices on the 5 GHz band.

Online protest, or clicktivism, is back in the news as the OkCupid dating site called out Mozilla’s new CEO Brenden Eich for his past views on same-sex marriage and his donation to California’s 2008 Proposition 8 campaign. Mr. Eich, for his part, put up a post on his personal blog talking about the issue and his devotion to diversity at Mozilla and a company blog reaffirmed its commitment to equality. (OkCupid yanked the Firefox protest screen after a few days. UPDATE: On Thursday, April 3, Eich stepped down as CEO of Mozilla.)

Stephen Colbert, who plays the overstuffed host of a mock political show, also faced a heated campaign on Twitter after the account connected to his show tweeted a message that some found racially offensive. Colbert addressed the controversy with a dream sequence on his show this week and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone appeared to shut down the @ColbertReport account.

Have you ever wondered who looked at your Google+ profile page? If so, you may have noticed Google recently added the number of page views since October 2012 to your profile page. (Oh, and in case you like anniversaries, this week marked the 10th year of Gmail.)

Google is also cracking down on bad app behavior; check out the update to the Google Play Developer Program Policies. The sharing of intellectual properly and copyrighted works is a standard issue these days and will likely be back in the news this weekend when Game of Thrones returns for its fourth season on HBO. A Twitter post last weekend about Dropbox blocking copyrighted material from being shared saw thousands of retweets from people wondering if the online storage site was going through people’s stuff.  The short answer? No, but the TechCrunch blog has a good breakdown of how the Dropbox system works.

As mentioned back in January, the Rosetta spacecraft woke up from hibernation and was preparing to trail Comet 67P/Churyumov- Gerasimenko as part of its mission from the European Space Agency. Rosetta has now begun to beam back its first photos of the comet taken from a distance of about three million miles. The pictures should be a little closer to the actual comet by this summer.

And finally, watch your mailboxes. Settlement checks and credits from the e-book pricing case have been rolling out over the past few weeks. Some online retailers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble, are issuing customer credits and have guides on their sites. It may just be a few dollars, but with those low, low ebook prices, surely you can find something good to read.

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