J.D. tells us how we can make a correction on a Google Map and Pedro hopes The Big Apple finally gets its recommended daily allowance of Google Fiber. In the news, Amazon is said to be working on its own line of smartphones; Facebook is ripping out the messaging functionality from its smartphone apps; Google purchases Titan Aerospace out from under Facebook; Samsung’s Galaxy S5 makes its official debut; Windows Phone 8.1 is getting raves; and a Linux distribution that leaves no trace on the host computer.
Merely having its own tablet and TV set-top box is clearly not enough to keep up with Google and Apple: Amazon is said to be working on its own line of smartphones now as well. According to the Boy Genius Report site and a few other sources, the flagship Amazon touchscreen phone will run a modified version of Android and sport a glasses-free 3D interface that can quickly whisk you to Amazon’s various online store departments. (And of course, the Web, where you can check out the True Detective/Family Circus mashup, Time is a Flat Circus.)
So much for the all-in-one approach: Facebook is ripping out the messaging functionality from its smartphone apps and forcing users who want to exchange messages within the service to download its separate Messenger app. Facebook claims the division of services makes messaging better and faster, but privacy advocates suggest a visit into the app’s settings to turn off location stamps and other potential annoyances like those Chat Head things.
Has there been a bit of upstreaming with the drones? According to The Wall Street Journal, Google has now slipped in and purchased Titan Aerospace, the drone maker of Facebook was flirting with earlier this year. However, The Social Network is paying $20 million for Ascenta, a company based in the United Kingdom that also makes unmanned solar-powered vehicles.
In mobile news, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 smartphone went on sale last week and seems to have sold a few units, even though Samsung has not released official sales figures yet. T-Mobile continues to stomp the data-plan paradigm and says it’s going to stop charging penalty fees for customers who go over their monthly limits. The company’s CEO also threw down the virtual gauntlet with an online petition and challenged its national-carrier rivals AT&T, Sprint and Verizon to lay off the overcharges as well.
Windows Phone 8.1 is getting some good reviews, including one from the Ars Technica site that calls it “a magnificent smartphone platform.” The new mobile OS can apparently accept passes designed for Apple’s Passbook app and the new Cortana assistant got special raves.
Hopefully, everyone has their servers patched and their passwords changed after the Heartbleed bug hit the headlines last week. The National Journal notes that while the bug was publicized on April 7th, the Google engineer and the Finnish security team at Codenomicon actually uncovered the flaw earlier in March. Google fixed its own servers and told a few other companies about the gaping security hole, but didn’t tell the US government.
Last week’s revelation of the Heartbleed bug sent a lot of people scrambling to change their passwords and shore up security — and for good reason. A new report from the Pew Research Center says 18 percent of adults using the Internet now say they’ve had important personal information stolen and 21 percent say they’ve had an mail or account with a social networking site compromised. (Remember when an occasional AOL email spoofing used to be the worst thing that ever happened?)
Talk about facetime: The FBI plans to have its state-of-the-art face recognition database up and running by this summer with more than 52 million photos on file — including those of people who have never committed a crime and have no reason to be in a law-enforcement database. Through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation requested documents regarding the FBI’s biometric database, Next Generation Identification, and published its findings. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is also keeping tabs on the NGI.
And finally, if privacy and security are on your mind, check out Tails. It’s the operating system Edward Snowden used in his work with the NSA. The Tails system is a Linux distribution that can run on almost any computer from a USB stick, SD card or DVD, where it leaves no trace on the host computer. Tails can offer anonymity to its users —unless of course, there’s a camera and face-recognition software nearby.
Despite all the big tech news this week J.D. takes a few minutes to help El Kaiser work up the courage to cut the cable, um, cable. In the news Microsoft buys Nokia’s phone handset division; CBS and Time Warner finally make up; Big announcements at the IFA Berlin show; Google acquires a smartwatch maker; U.S. retailer Target gets into the streaming video game; another government agency trips through U.S. phone records; and Skype celebrates its 10th birthday.
Summer’s over and it’s back to business. The Microsoft announced late on Labor Day evening here in the US that it was buying Nokia’s phone handset division for 7.2 Billion dollars. The company even published a 30-page PDF of a PowerPoint presentation on its site that outlined the strategic rationale for the purchase. It’s very colorful, if you like PowerPoints. (Nokia, when not getting parts of itself bought by Microsoft, also just launched an embedded Internet-linked navigation and infotainment system called Here Auto.)
The IFA Berlin show is up and running this week, and bringing with it plenty of tech announcements. LG Electronics announced a 55-inch OLED television called the LG Gallery that looks like a painting in a frame — except with a 2.2 channel speaker system inside, with most Van Gogh reproductions don’t include. LG has also jumped back into the tablet race with its G Pad, an 8.3-inch Android tablet with an HD display.
Acer also had a few new products to announce, including a 24-inch all-in-one computer with a Nvidia Tegra 3 system-on-a-chip inside that’s running Android Jelly Bean 4.2 and a phone with a 6-inch screen called the Liquid S2. It runs on the 4G data networks and it can also shoot video in ultra high-definition 4K. Acer also has a 10.1-inch Iconia A3 Android tablet coming too. Samsung, Sony and several other companies all had IFA announcements as well this week.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear was also formally announced this week. While we’re checking our watches, Google recently completed the acquisition of smartwatch maker WIMM Labs. WIMM Labs put out its own smartwatch in 2011, but Google itself has not commented on any smartwatch plans of its own. (It did, however, rename the next version of Android after a candy bar.) Amazon, not to be left out of product news, released a new version of the Kindle Paperwhite.
Target is getting ready to introduce its own video-on-demand service called Target Ticket. Maybe you’ll be able to order up a Target Ticket flick on a PlayStation 4 console this fall, as Sony has confirmed its next generation game console will have voice command ability through the Eye camera peripheral.
Another government agency besides the National Security Agency has been tripping through the phone records of Americans. This time, the situation involves drug-fighting federal and local law enforcement officials from The Hemisphere Project using an AT&T database to check out call logs that go back to 1987.
Apple finally confirmed that it’s having a September 10th press event. Photos have been popping up around the Web purporting to show a batch of the lower-cost iPhone 5C models tucked into the same types of clear plastic boxes used by Apple to sell its iPod Touch and iPod Nano media players, so we’ll see if those were real or rumor-driving props designed to make the tech blogs hyperventilate.
Skype has just celebrated its 10th birthday. The little startup accounted for 167 billion minutes of international voice traffic in 2012, much to the traditional telephone companies’ dismay. And speaking of 10-year anniversaries, the Daily Telegraph newspaper over in London has named its “10 Most Annoying Social Media Features of the Past 10 Years.” Go poke yourself, Facebook.
J.D. has a Helpfully Helpful Hint about how to avoid comment trolls and Pedro gives us his thoughts on the two big superhero films of the summer, “Man of Steel” and “Iron Man 3”. In the news, Facebook adds hashtags; Samsung plans to give away Jay-Z’s new album to Galaxy smartphone owners; Microsoft drops the price of the Surface RT tablet; and Yahoo continues its spending spree.
Facebook, which announced that it was adding hashtags to its service last week, is having a big announcement this week and word on the digital street has it that the company plans to unveil video as an added feature to Instagram. In other video news, Amazon announced this week that those recently purchased Nick Jr. shows like Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues are among the new material that has been added to its Kindle FreeTime Unlimited service. (The company also has the more limited Kindle FreeTime app, which is free.)
Samsung’s buying up a million copies of Jay-Z’s upcoming album Magna Carta Holy Grail to give out to Galaxy smartphone owners 72 hours before the album officially drops on July 4. The company also has a faster version of its Galaxy S4 phone on the way next month, one that promises double the speed of the current 4G LTE network. While the U.S. mobile networks may not be quite up to super-quick LTE, New Yorkers can at least juice up their batteries as AT&T has added 25 solar-powered recharging stations around the five boroughs.
Microsoft has a special deal for educational institutions buying hardware: a 32-gigabyte Surface RT tablet for $199. Its Outlook.com team up in Redmond also announced this week that it was ditching linked accounts in the name of security and switching over to aliases and the company released its Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers With iPhones app this week. The biggest Microsoft news o’ the week, however, is that nicely executed 180 on its Xbox One policies (you know, those “required Internet connection” and “restrictions on used games” policies) thanks to customer “feedback.” Your move, Sony.
As for Apple, the company’s e-book pricing trail continues in New York City with summations expected Thursday of this week, but an immediate ruling is not expected. Apple issued a statement on customer privacy in regards to the ongoing revelations about the National Security Agency and noted that its FaceTime and iMessage conversations were encrypted and said it couldn’t even crack those. The company found the time to work up a beta update for Apple TV testers that adds in iTunes Radio and a conference-room display feature.
Yahoo also joined the growing list of tech companies that have issued privacy statements to their customers. The post, from CEO Marissa Mayer and General Counsel Ron Bell, said Yahoo had between 12,000 and 13,000 requests from law enforcement agencies in from December 2012 to May 2013. And the shopping continues — according to the All Things D Web site, which reports that the company made an offer of $30 to 40 million dollars for Xobni and possibly $50 million for the Qwiki video app.
In other tech news this week, Adobe Systems has officially released its Creative Cloud suite to the public and the reviews are starting to come. Wal-Mart and Staples plan to start selling Google’s Chromebook laptop. BlackBerry has issued a security warning about a critical bug in the BlackBerry Protect app for its Z10 smartphone. Ford is responding to consumer complaints that its MyFord Touch electronic touchscreen dashboard systems are too confusing by putting back the knobs, and the Oxford English Dictionary has added some new terms in its latest update.
And finally, Man of Steel broke the box office record for the biggest opening numbers in June with $113.1 million dollars last weekend. This haul puts Supes second in line behind Iron Man 3’s $174.1 million dollar opening weekend last month.
The comic-book movies of summer are doing quite well and we’re not even to the mid-way point of the season yet. Next month, The Wolverine, RIPD, and RED 2 all arrive, as does the enormous San Diego Comic-Con International, with all of its industry news and film previews. So there are plenty of things to look forward to besides the new books hitting the shelves of your local comics shop each Wednesday.
And now, some news!
Microsoft, in the midst of taking a swipe at Google for what is says are suspect ranks for shopping searches, says Windows 8 is selling just fine, thankyouverymuch. Not everyone’s convinced, though. Some sites like InformationWeek would like, well, more information about the numbers.
The manager for Apple’s misbegotten Maps app is probably looking for new directions himself after getting fired earlier this month, and Tony Fadell, the man known as the Godfather of the iPod does not seem to be too broken up about Scott Forstall — another previously released Apple exec — getting the sack. Apple itself is said to be working with TomTom to make the iOS 6 maps app better, while map fans wait in hope for a standalone Google Maps app for iOS. At least iTunes 11 finally showed up this week.
Google has had about enough of anonymous trolling on app reviews in its Google Play Store. Reviews must now be accompanied by the user’s Google+ name and profile photo. The move should cut down on the number of astroturfed reviews for an app, and trolls will just have to drive up Google+ membership stats with fake accounts if they want to continue fragging apps in public forums.
Hoping to get its buzz back, Research in Motion is showing off a new BlackBerry in advance of its new BlackBerry OS 10 system due out early next year. And while not exactly fresh news, AT&T is still hanging out in the basement of the Consumer Reports customer satisfaction survey for US wireless carriers; the company’s 4G LTE network got better marks. Verizon Wireless was tops among the major national carriers.
But enough about tech, how about some pop? With the big summer movies now landing on Blu-ray and DVD for the holidays, director Christopher Nolan has some thoughts on the ending of the The Dark Knight Rises. Now, if they can just get Hugh Jackman jacked in to the X-Men: Days of Future Past with the rest of the gang…
Microsoft is having a busy fall with new Windows Phones, the Surface tablet, a colorful overhaul of the flagship operating system. But wait, there’s more: a new security hole in Internet Explorer, versions 6 through 9. If you don’t feel like trying the suggested workarounds, there’s another option a few people have pointed out: Ditch IE.
Meanwhile, over in Applestan, the iPhone 5 broke a pre-order sales record and Twitter redesigned its iPad app ahead of the iOS 6 release on Wednesday. Open Internet and public-interest groups are complaining to the FCC about AT&T’s plan to make users switch its mobile-sharing plan to use Apple’s FaceTime videochat service over a cellular connection. Also complaining: Samsung, which continues to keep up the defense in its legal war with Apple over patents, pointing out on its company blog that the iPhone 4 sure looks like some of their old MP3 players.
The iPhone 5 wasn’t the only geek goodie flush with preorders this week — the first batch of Nintendo Wii U consoles is reportedly sold out in many places long before the system’s November 18th release. (No word on when preorders might be available for the bling-laden Hasselblad Lunar camera announced this week, but since it’s not due out until February, frugal photographers pining for a 24-megapixel camera with a sculpted wood handgrip have a few months to pinch together 650,000 pennies for it.)
While the Lunar camera is quite a luxury, if you want to talk big pixels in space, the Dark Energy Camera wins — with 570 megapixels and a mission to photograph 8 billion-year-old rays of light finally reaching Earth from distant galaxies. (Hopefully, all this intergalactic travel will get a speed bump if the physicists can get warp drive figured out.)
So we’re waiting around for that, an Android version of the Snapseed photo-editing app now that Google has bought Nik Software, and a Firefly reunion (besides the panel at the Comic-Con panel last summer). While we’re cooling it, we can always kill some time poking around the Internet Archive, which just announced its new collection of 350,000 broadcast news programs that cover the past three years of events. If you like TV news, check it out. Even if a massive video record of world events since 2009 isn’t your cup of tea, the Archive holds millions of other bits of history and has been dubbed “Alexandria 2.0” by Wired magazine. And you don’t have to be quiet in this library.
The Fall TV season is here and J.D. helps us use our mobile devices to look for what to watch plus Pedro has a new Tech Term. In the news, a new security vulnerability affects almost all IE browsers; blinged out cameras; the world’s most powerful camera; and warp drives may make the leap from science-fiction to science-fact.
Microsoft’s Windows Upgrade Offer site is now taking registrations so if you’ve purchased a new Windows 7 PC since this past June 2, sign up to get Windows 8 Pro for $15. You’ll likely see Windows 8 before RIM’s BlackBerry 10 OS arrives, and we may soon see the Windows Phone platform slipping past BlackBerry in U.S. smartphone market share, if StatCounter’s extrapolated numbers hold up. Windows Phone 8 models are expected to be popping up this fall, and Nokia undoubtedly hopes to increase its customer base here in the States to match its Windows Phone domination worldwide.
If you’re worried about smishing (SMS phishing) after that iOS security researcher figured out a way to spoof SMS messages on the iPhone, check out PC World’s article for a good backgrounder on the topic. While Apple’s initial suggestion was to just stick to its iMessage service to protect yourself from phishers, maybe they could add a little code to iOS 6 to zip up that security flaw since not everyone has an iOS device.
Speaking of iOS 6 and its new features, those wanting to stay chatty in with FaceTime over an AT&T cellular connection must switch to one of the new Mobile Share data plans — a requirement some advocacy groups are questioning on legal grounds. For those who prefer the multiplatform Skype app for VoIP and video chats, the new Skype iOS apps now allow photo sharing.
Gamers should have plenty to look forward to this fall. Nintendo’s preview announcement for its new Wii U game console on September 13th. Rovio, the folks behind the insanely popular Angry Birds game, has teamed up for a new 10-level version of the game with the punk-pop band Green Day—who happens to have three new albums in the works. To give you a little taste of the action, the game trailer features a bit of the new Green Day single, “Oh Love.” And if you’re into games and trailers, check out the one for Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary, an upcoming film about how table-top roleplaying games changed the world. The movie isn’t supposed to be out until 2014 and its creators are doin’ the Kickstarter thing now, but for those who can’t wait, there’s a book called Of Dice and Men on the history of the game due out next spring.
Like a set of dice, the Mars rover, Curiosity, is rollin’…around Mars this week. Curiosity has its own Twitter feed if you feel like following, and there’s also the unofficial parody account, @SarcasticRover, if you like your robots with a little sass.