Tag Archives: George Orwell

PTJ 129 News: Identity Crisis

Those massive corporate data breaches just keep rolling on like an endless Mardi Gras parade, don’t they? Last week’s big heist from the Anthem health insurance company  may have actually started almost nine months ago, though. Brian Krebs, keeper of the excellent Krebs on Security blog, is among those reporting that open-source information used to analyze the attack suggests that the first Anthem network intrusions took place in April 2014. When the hack ‘n’ heist was announced last week, Anthem quickly put up an information page and frequently asked questions page for its customers. Some experts have also suggested putting a security freeze on your accounts if you really want to throw up a roadblock.

Also hacked: The Twitter account of Anthony Noto, the chief financial officer of Twitter. Oops.

The White House is at least trying to get an agency together to help sort out online security incidents. The Cyber Threat and Intelligence Integration Center is expected to serve as a portal for members of the intelligence community to share and compare cyber threat data.

Google is also celebrating Safer Internet Day until February 17th, The company put up an online Security Checkup tutorial that guides you through reviewing your permissions and security settings. It takes about two minutes to complete and has a reward, Google will give you a permanent two-gigabyte bump in your Google Drive storage space. So that’s win-win, but perhaps Google ought to to some safer Internet housekeeping and clean out those nasty adware apps posing as games in its Google Play store.

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On a happier health-related note, Google announced this week on its Google Blog that it was adding fact-checked medical information to its Knowledge Graph feature of Google search. Who knows what else they’ll be adding to search by the time the annual I/O conference rolls in — it’ll be May 28th & 29th this year.

Smart TVs may be getting a little too smart for some people. There’s chatter around Samsung’s Smart TV this week, particularly the voice activation feature that can be used to control the set by talking when it was revealed that the TV can eavesdrop and record private conversations that take front of the TV and transmit the information to third-party companies.

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Samsung acknowledged the practice in its user agreement for the TV and said users can turn off voice activation whenever they want and other users have gone to more extreme measures Samsung, realizing that clumsy wording its is EULA was causing uproar, later went to its corporate blog to clarify that the Smart TV does not randomly record private living room conversations and its really just about transmitting the spoken-word commands to Nuance for translation into action. Still, many people have noticed a similarity to the spying telescreens of Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Hey, a $10,000 Ethernet cable? Some gearheads are clearly a bit skeptical, but if this sort of thing appeals to you, we also hear there’s a super-cool bit of New York City real estate over there for sale, too.

scribdScribd, the service that offers unlimited access to certain ebooks for a monthly fee, is bringing the same approach to comics — yes, unlimited access to the company’s digital comics offerings for $9 a month. No DC Comics, though. Yet, anyway. But look! Up in the sky! At least you can use Apple Pay on JetBlue starting this month.

Apple is also hard at work on the next couple versions of its iOS software. Several tech blogs are reporting that there’s an iOS 8.4 update down the road when the Apple Watch arrives this spring and that one may include a new streaming Beats music service. And later this year, look for iOS 9.

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And finally, the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum announced this week that it has some long-lost space artifacts from Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Although Mr. Armstrong died in 2012, his widow contacted the museum recently and said she found a white bag known as a “McDivitt purse” in one of Mr. Armstrong’s closets. The random objects inside the bag turned out to be about 10 pounds of hardware related to the original moonwalk — including the 16mm Data Acquisition Camera that was mounted in the window of the lunar module Eagle to record the historic landing and “one small step” step. Here’s hoping the Smithsonian does an Inside Neil Armstrong’s Historic Space Purse exhibit soon!

PTJ 105: A Cat, a Dog, And a Groot

El Kaiser takes a listen to the INEARPEACE earbuds from Om Audio and likes what he hears while J.D. tells us where and how to find quality documentaries online.

In the news, Amazon continues its war with book publisher Hachette and now finds itself battling Disney; Microsoft has Xbox announcements; Apple appears to have ramped up production of the new iPad; the U.S. government creates new agencies to handle its tech woes; Akamai releases its latest State of the Internet report; we have robot news and yes, it does rattle the Kaiser; and a security researcher weaponizes his pets.

PTJ 105 News: Amazon’s Great Muppet Caper and Other Tales

Amazon, who seems to be having a year of contract battles with its merchandise providers, is dragging the Muppets and Captain America into the fray. Variety and Home Media Magazine are among those reporting that Amazon’s U.S. site is currently not offering pre-orders for many Disney movies scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray, including last spring’s Muppets Most Wanted, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Maleficent. This is not likely to go over well with geeks, parents and, well,  geek parents.

The übermegastore is still slugging it out on another front with Hachette over e-book pricing and the some of the people who actually write the books are piping up. More than 900 authors signed a public letter last week that demanded that the Amazon stop messing around with writer’s book distribution and sales as a negotiating tactic. The company also got some flack earlier this week for misusing — of all things — a George Orwell quote in a letter from its Amazon Books Team.

At the Gamescom tradeshow on Germany this week, Microsoft made several announcements. One big one:  the upcoming Rise of the Tomb Raider will launch as an exclusive to the Xbox when the game arrives next year. Other data points from Microsoft’s games division include the betas for the multiplayer Fable Legends starting on October 16 and the one for Halo 5: Guardians starting on December 29th and new Xbox One bundles including a shiny white version of the console this fall. The Xbox One hardware itself will be getting some additional features as well.

ipad2In Apple News, supply-chain watchers note that production of the next generation of iPads seems to be underway, probably headed to stores by mid-fall. The new models are expected to sport an anti-glare coating to make the screens easier to read and will come with the new iOS system. One of the features previewed in iOS 8 last June at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference — Healthkit — could be getting some traction. The Reuters News Agency reports that Apple has been talking about possible integration with folks at the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins and Mount Sinai, as well as with at least one electronic health record provider. One last Apple bite: The New York Times had a big story this week about Apple University, the company’s secret training program for employees that educates them in Apple philosophy. As the article noted, at least one Apple U. alum found the quality of the campus bathroom tissue to be superb.

The United States government seems to have realized that good, functional websites make life easier for its citizens and announced this week that it’s dedicating the new U.S. Digital Service department to the cause. The group will live in the Office of Budget and Management and there’s now a U.S. Digital Services Playbook online that outlines best practices and another online document called the TechFAR Handbook that explains Federal Acquisition Regulation to help government agencies implement their digital services. The USDS is intended to serve mostly as consultants, but there’s another department of government geeks over in the General Services Administration. The other group, called 18F, is designed to be more of a hands-on-get-in-there-and-fix-that-mess team.

Akamai has released its latest State of the Internet report and among other things, rates average Internet speed on a state-by-state basis. While data speeds may be slow in certain parts of the United States, six companies are forming a consortium to create a new $300 million dollar Trans-Pacific cable system between Japan and the US West Coast.

It’s Google Science Fair time again and one of the more notable projects from this year’s crop is called “Rethink” and it’s by Trisha Prabhu, a 14-year-old girl from Naperville, Illinois. As she outlines on the Google Science Fair site, Ms. Prabhu wanted to create a system to help cut down on cyberbullying between adolescents on social media sites and her experiment seems to have worked.

botlrIn robot news, our still-benevolent mechanical helpers are finding work this summer as bellhops and museum guides. Starwood’s Aloft hotel in Cupertino, California, is experimenting with a rolling butler called Botlr that delivers items like toothpaste and razors from the front desk up to guest rooms. The Tate Britain Museum in London is unleashing four robots into its galleries after hours to live-stream footage from the museum’s collection. The After Dark project runs five nights through August 17th and curious art lovers can log in through the museum’s online portal to follow along.

kittehAs detailed in Wired, security researcher Gene Bransfield successfully used a cat with a custom WarKitteh collar to map Wi-Fi security in his neighborhood. He explained it all in a DEF CON presentation called “Weaponizing Your Pets: The War Kitteh and the Denial of Service Dog.” As for the Denial of Service Dog project, Mr. Bransfield showed how a canine equipped with a saddlebag full of hacker gear was able to troll bars and turn off TV sets during the World Cup. (Brazil fans may have actually been grateful for the act of mercy during that notorious semi-final match with Germany.)

And finally, if you found yourself charmed by Vin Diesel’s Groot character and his limited dialogue in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, check out the 15-button Groot soundboard over on Vulture.com. And you can bring the magic along during your Web travels, grab the Grootify script button from the Us vs. Them site. It makes a number of websites so much better, as shown below.

grootweb