J.D. tells us where we can find the trendiest trends and a tanned, rested and ready Kaiser has confession to make. In the news, tech sites get foolish on the first day of April; Facebook buys Oculus Rift and breaks the heart of millions of gamers; Apple appears to be almost ready to crank out the iPhone 6; the FCC frees up even more radio frequencies; Stephen Colbert catches all kinds of heat; and settlement checks and credits from the e-book pricing case have begun making their way to customers.
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.
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.
We’ve moved into the month of May, so fans of summer movies and Macs are buzzing. Six weeks ahead of Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, the 9to5Mac site claims it has exclusive information about the next release of OS X. The upcoming iOS 7 software is said to be sporting a new look as well — possibly moving to the “flat” design currently favored by Google and Microsoft, where plain backgrounds are accented with bold color buttons devoid of 3D effects like rendered shadows and gradations.
While LG Electronics is moving from flat to curvy with what it calls the world’s first curved OLED screen, the whole “flat” seems to be working for Microsoft, on the mobile front, anyway. According to the firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, the Windows Phone OS grew from 3.7 percent of the US market share at the end of March 2012 up to 5.6 percent the first quarter of 2013. (Maybe those sassy TV ads for Windows Phone are also helping.) But Microsoft is doing more with voice-work than just pumping out handsets — the company now has the make-Skype-calls-directly-from-your-Outlook.com-inbox feature up and running, in the United Kingdom anyway, with more countries on the way.
Google Now, the Big G’s voice-assisted life helper program for mobile devices, arrived this week for iOS as part of an update to the Google Search app. Battery-burn accusations aside, Business Insider and other sites report that Google Now actually seems to be more useful than Apple’s own Siri assistant, while also noting the irony that Google Now doesn’t actually work on a lot of phones running older versions of Google’s own Android system.
A new study from North Carolina State University has found that older programmers know more than their younger counterparts about recent software platforms and that the skills and knowledge of the veteran coders improves over time. The full paper is titled “Is Programming Knowledge Related to Age?” (Code wranglers and others who work odd hours might want to know that McDonald’s may be expanding availability of its delicious breakfast meals.)
In security news, the Syrian Electronic Army, which claimed it was behind last week’s hack attack on the Twitter feed of the Associated Press, is also targeting other organizations like the Guardian, National Public Radio and Al Jazeera. The Twitter account of Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA and notable controversial newsmaker himself, was also compromised.
Like the airline industry, the travel search-and-bookings business is getting a little smaller thanks to mergers and acquisitions. As announced last fall, Priceline.com bought the sprightly little Kayak service and last month, Expedia.com bought Trivago, a German hotel search site. As detailed in a story in the New York Times this week, some travel industry analysts don’t think the companies will tamper with the search-engine formula, but the British Office of Fair Trading is taking a closer look.
The Internet — and the Web in particular — have made travel, shopping, cat videos and plenty of other things in life much easier, and it’s time to wish it a happy birthday this week. On April 30, 1993, CERN made the announcement that the World Wide Web would be expanding from its scientific and research origins and become free to anyone out there in the public domain. The CERN site has a short history of the Web, along with a link to a 1993 copy of the first Web site.
And finally, while some people may not have predicted just how popular the World Wide Web would be 20 years later, others are actively campaigning for a pre-emptive international ban on…killer robots. Yes, there is an official movement known as the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and the group seeks to halt the production of weapons that can attack targets without human intervention. For those who want to know more, a 50-page report released last fall from Human Rights Watch outlines many of the ethical concerns over fully autonomous weapons and the danger to civilians. Here’s hoping the future turns out to be more like The Jetsons and less like The Terminator…