Tag Archives: lawsuit

PTJ 257: Lucha Libre

The new year is here and so far, 2018 is already throwing its five moves of doom around the ring: Massive security flaws in the world’s computer processors, a giant lawsuit against Spotify, the government’s white-hat hacker shortage, YouTube drama and all kinds of bad behavior on Twitter. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all here in Episode 257 of Pop Tech Jam, so just push Play for the main event!

Links to Stories Discussed in This Week’s Episode

Avoid the Twitter Litter

PTJ 181 News: Full Court Press

fccCould the digital divide in America be closing just a bit? The Federal Communications Commission has tweaked its plan for low-cost broadband Internet access and presented a proposal to its members this week that brings broadband service for $9.25 a month. The new broadband plan is an update to its 1985 Lifeline program to subsidize landline service for qualifying low-income consumers and the 2008 enhancement to the plan to include mobile-phone help. Lifeline has gotten the usual government-program charges of fraud, waste and abuse (and other gripes) from its detractors, like what counts as average broadband speed. The FCC countered by saying it does have some fraud-prevention measures. Some providers like Sprint don’t care for the proposed reforms to the Lifeline program, but a vote on the new system by FCC members is expected on March 31st.

Facebook is making its Instant Articles feature easier to use for people who aren’t even major media organizations. The company said a few weeks ago that it was opening up the Instant Articles feature to all publishers and this week, Facebook announced a new open-source plug-in for WordPress.  The opening of Instant Articles For All is expected to happen in time for the company’s annual F8 Conference in San Francisco next month. In an even more reassuring development, Facebook also awarded $15,000 to a hacker who demonstrated how he could use basic software to crack open the account of any user on the service. Yes, Facebook has since fixed the flaw in its system.

Mozilla, which recently bailed out, er, pivoted, on its Firefox OS for smartphones, is moving into the Internet of Things, where appliances rule the 802.11 airwaves. In a post on the Mozilla blog, the company outlined four new projects designed to integrate Firefox technologies into connected devices and asked for volunteers to help test out the new stuff. If you are a developer and are interested in working on any of it, check out Project Link, Project Sensor Web, Project Smart Home or Project Vaani.

In gaming news, Capcom is spanking players who rage-quit its Street Fighter V game by docking their League Points for bad behavior.  So there! And Microsoft it just announced it was canceling development of its Fable Legends game for Xbox and closing Lionhead Studios in the United Kingdom and Press Play Studios in Denmark.

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Also over in the House of Microsoft, the company has now enabled Skype chat right from OneDrive when you are collaborating on an Office Online document and just have to talk it out with your co-authors. And whispers around Redmond say Microsoft has pushed back the next big upfate to Windows 10, codenamed Redstone 2 from later this year to until spring of 2017 to better align with new device hardware on the way. No comment from Microsoft so far.

There’s a reportedly nasty piece of OS X ransomware out there, looking to lock up your Mac until you pay up. The malware, called KeRanger, only affects the Transmission BitTorrent client installer. If you use the program, here’s a link to more information. If you don’t use the program, you can skip the freak-out.

craigIn other Apple-related news, the Department of Justice is appealing last week’s federal court ruling in Brooklyn that said the government could not use the centuries-old All Writs Act force Apple to unlock a user’s iPhone. And Craig Federighi (shown here), Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering and fabulous hair, recently wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post explaining Apple’s stance in its ongoing fight with the FBI. Security experts have also weighed in on the matter in a recent Bloomberg News article that says the FBI should just hack the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone themselves since it would be faster.  There’s also some worry that if the US government forces Apple to start unlocking iPhones left and right for security reasons, the European Union privacy regulators will delay their verdict on the EU-US privacy shield agreement. (In other not-so-good legal news for Apple, the Supreme Court has declined to listen to the company’s appeal for the e-book price fixing case. Cue the sound of a very large check being written.)

Also in Europe, Google, Indexer of the Past, is expanding the European court-ordered Right to Be Forgotten.  However,  Americans mortified by their pasts lurking online still have nowhere to complain, even though a consumer advocacy group petitioned the Federal Trade Commission last year to make Google allow us Yanks to forget our documented-and- digitized discretions as well.

Verizon Wireless is having its own issues with the concept of privacy. The Federal Communications Commission (clearly having a busy year so far) has slapped the telecom giant with a $1.35 million dollar fine and a a three-year consent decree to settle the case of the privacy-chomping supercookies that first surfaced in 2014.

fiWhen it comes to Internet service providing, Google is mainly known for its Google Fiber broadband, but the company also has a lesser-known cellphone service that piggybacks on Sprint and T-Mobile networks. It’s called Project Fi and the reason you may have not heard of it before is that it was invitation-only since it launched last year. But as of this week, anybody with a Nexus 6, 6P or 5X can  get Project Fi service. You just need to go to (where else?) the Sign Up page to get started.

Amazon, keeping an eye on Apple’s legal punch-up with the DOJ, has now weighed in and said it was going to restore the device encryption capabilities it just yanked out of its Fire OS 5 software. Amazon said it originally took out the feature because no one was using it, but has now decided to re-enable the feature in an update to the system this spring.

rayAnd finally, we here at Pop Tech Jam offer out condolences to the family of Ray Tomlinson, the programmer credited with the modern invention of electronic mail with the groovy little @ sign back in 1971. Mr. Tomlinson passed away last week at the age of 74. He was a member of the Internet Hall of Fame and said he picked the @ sign because it just “made sense.”  Thank you, Ray Tomlinson, for setting the standard.

PTJ 165 News: Stream On

Oh, cord-cutters, could it be? Time Warner Cable is reportedly testing an Internet TV service this week, which would allow subscribers to go over the top and stream their television programs without having to have a cable box. All you need is a supplied Roku 3. TWC  isn’t commenting yet, but as reported by the Tech Times site, the so-called “Starter TV” package will cost $10 a month on top of usual broadband costs, and the service tiers go from there.

The Roku 3 may have gotten tapped for the rumored test, but the Roku 4 has now rolled out, bringing its 4K video streams with it. CNet reviewed the new model and said that the Roku 4 is the best way to ultra high-def 4K video at the moment —but it wasn’t so hot with voice search or gaming. But the 4K picture is nice, when you can find 4K content to watch.

The fourth generation Apple TV went on sale this week. Pre-orders started Monday and units were expected to start arriving October 30th.  VentureBeat reports that the remote is radically different than previous models and that iPhone owners can set the box up over a Bluetooth connection with the phone held near the Apple TV. Brian X. Chen of The New York Times reviewed it as well.

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Thinking of cutting the cable cord but are afraid of losing your cable-comany DVR box? Consumer Reports has an article on DVRs you can use to record shows from over-the-air signals.

You do need broadband to stream TV with these new boxes, but New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is looking into the speed claims made by Verizon Communications Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc., and Cablevision Systems Corp. because maybe, you know, connections aren’t as fast as advertised. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, over in Europe this week, the European Parliament voted against a set of amendments intended to protect “net neutrality” in the EU. Proponents of Net Neutrality were critical, those against said the proposed legislation was too vague. Also getting legal, another class-action lawsuit against Apple over the Wi-Fi- Assist feature in iOS 9 that turned out to be eating through user’s mobile data plans if left unattended.

Speaking of mobile data hogs: Facebook is rolling out is redesigned and expanded the notifications tab in its Android and iOS apps. A blog on the company site says the notifications will include things like friends’ milestones, sports scores, reminders about your favorite TV shows, upcoming events and whatnot – just like Google Now already does.

Samsung is not letting everyone else have Big Tablet Fun without it. On the heads of the iPad Pro and the 27-inch Lenovo table-top tablet, Samsung is reportedly working on a Galaxy View model with an 18.4-inch screen. Images of the Galaxy View are online.

It seems like everyone and their grandmother is launching a mobile payment system and now Chase has announced its own digital wallet service called Chase Pay. The service is expected out next year, but uses QR codes on screen with the CurrentC system instead of near-field communication connections with payment terminals like Android Pay and Apple Pay do. And MasterCard announced a new program of its own this week that will let it bring a payment system to any accessory, wearble or consumer device into a mobile payment system. (Any accessory?)

Wal-Mart  has applied for its own permit with the Federal Aviation Administration to start testing drones for warehouse inventory, home deliver and curbside pickup. The application is under review. Here’s hoping for a Drones of Wal-Mart website soon thereafter.

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If you have an Xbox One, mark November 12th on your calendar. That’s the day Microsoft plans to roll out Windows 10 to its console nation. Tech-support hotlines are standing by…

And finally, space party! A new study published in Science magazine finds that Comet C/2014 Q2 — also known by its club name, Comet Lovejoy — is spraying sugar and booze as it flies around the solar system. Analysis by scientists found ethyl alcohol and sugar in the comet’s chemical mix, at a concentration of 0.12% alcohol and 0.16% sugar. All aboard the Cocktail Comet!

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PTJ 117: Amazon Fires Up El Kaiser’s TV

It’s clear El Kaiser is quietly amassing a collection of streaming set-top boxes that may one day rival his tablet collection. On this week’s episode he gives us his impressions of the Fire TV, Amazon’s flagship media consumption device and his latest gadget acquisition.

Also on this week’s show J.D. helps us keep an eye on our monthly mobile device’s data allowance .

In the news President Barack Obama urges the FCC to keep the Internet open; Alibaba rakes in billions on “Singles Day”; Facebook’s Messenger app is now being used by 500 million people; NASA rents out some space; high-level corporate executives get there computers hacked into over hotel WiFi; Microsoft Office is free tablets and phones; and DARPA works on computer code that writes itself.

PTJ News 117: Pay As You Go

Congratulations, Philae, for sticking the landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as part of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission! Good job! (Now, if only you’d landed before we recorded this week’s episode, but we’ll congratulate you in person next week.)

Back on Earth, more people continue to weigh in on the Federal Communication Commission’s pending decision on net neutrality. President Barack Obama issued a statement and a video this week urging the FCC to keep the Internet open. As reported by The New York Times and others, Mr. Obama has proposed reclassifying both wired and wireless Internet service as a Title II telecommunications service under the Communications Act of 1934. Some Republican leaders have already objected to the President’s proposal, including Speaker of the House John Boenher and South Dakota Senator John Thune of South Dakota.

cartIf you think the power-shopping  stretch from Black Friday to Cyber Monday makes money (more than $3.5 billion in the past), look east. This week, the Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba hosted “Singles Day,” named for its date of  11.11 and it took less than 18 minutes from the sale’s start  for Alibaba’s gross merchandise volume to hit $1 billion. The entire shopping event went on to make 8.5 billion dollars in one day, which is a heck of a lot of e-commerce.

FBMFacebook, which said it killed the messaging feature within its main app and forced users to download a whole separate Messenger because Mark Zuckerberg thought it would be a better experience, announced this week that said Messenger app is now being used by 500 million people. The other 500 million people on Facebook are probably still complaining about the company killing the integrated messaging function.

NASA has confirmed that it’ll be leasing out its historic Hangar One to Google’s subsidiary Planetary Adventures for $1.16 billion dollars over the next 60 years. The lease at Moffett Field also includes 1,000 acres of federal land, and Google has pledged $200 million dollars to restore the old naval-airship hangar and two others like it.

hotelAs reported in Wired, Kaspersky Lab has been researching what it calls the Darkhotel espionage campaign, in which high-level corporate executives staying in luxury hotels are tricked into installing malware over a compromised hotel Wi-Fi network. So it’s not just those prices at the mini-bar that are criminal. (And speaking of hacking, the computer networks of United States Postal Service were invaded this fall, with the personal data of 800,000 employees compromised.)

Microsoft Office for phones and tablets is now free. Well, a basic version of Office for iPad and soon-to-be-Android edition is free. If you want to do more than basic editing and viewing, you’ll need to sign up for Office 365. (The company also introduced its $200 subscription-based Work & Play Bundle this week. )

Meanwhile, Apple is close to opening a new office in Cambridge, England. The company recently hired five people from a defunct mapping company called Pin Drop based in London, so perhaps those international Apple maps will get better soon. And as TechCrunch and other blogs have noted,  Google announced a partnership with Oxford University on some artificial intelligence projects last month, so the Cambridge-Oxford rivalry could take on a new tech dimension real soon. (Apple also has a bit going on stateside with a new lawsuit over The Case of the Disappearing iMessages and a miraculous new tool that helps those still afflicted.)

Pliny_the_ElderAnd finally, DARPA, (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and Rice University, (in Houston, Texas), are teaming up on an $11 million dollar project that could make writing computer programs much easier. A new software tool called PLINY — named for the Roman author and encyclopedist Pliny the Elder — is designed to serve as an autocorrect and autocomplete function for programmers, much like similar programs today that suggest and fill in search queries for the web. Let’s just hope it works better than the autocorrect feature in those early versions of iOS.

PTJ 103 News: Shoot the Messenger

Facebook’s move to shove users onto its separate Messenger app is reportedly coming soon — if it’s not here already by the time you read this. Millions of people are already using it, and Facebook says the Messenger app is a faster and more efficient for sharing text and multimedia messages. The company has plans to monetize Messenger with a payment system as well. The Messenger app’s Terms of Service is causing some concern with the privacy-minded, though, and some users are complaining about the forced march.

Splitting up app services seems to be a popular move. Foursquare recently divided its eponymous mobile software for checking into places and reviewing them into two apps They are Foursquare and the new Swarm app, available for Android and iOS. Swarm is now the app required for all the check-in-with-your-pals activity, while Foursquare has been transformed into a user-reviews database. The split has gotten media criticism and a fair amount of backlash from users who are checking out of Swarm, but the company did just release another update earlier this week. (Yelp, the service Foursquare seems to competing with most, updated its own mobile app this week and now allows users to add short video clips to their reviews.)

fakefoxAnd about apps… there are new reports of a security problem with the way apps are identified by Google’s Android operating system. The research team at Bluebox Security says the new “Fake ID” vulnerability that it has just discovered allows malicious applications to essentially copy the identity certificates and credentials of trusted apps and get into places where malware is normally not allowed. The research team said this security hole has been around since Android version 2.1 in January 2010 and devices that haven’t been updated with last April’s patch for Google bug 13678484 are vulnerable.  Bluebox waited 90 days to publicize its findings so Google had time to get out the April patch.

Apple has just purchased BookLamp, a book-recommendation service in what’s said to be a shot across Amazon’s e-book bow. Also in Apple’s shopping cart: Swell, the podcasting app described by some as “Pandora for talk radio.” The Re/code site reports that Apple is scooping up Swell for about $30 million and could put Apple’s own poorly reviewed Podcasts app out of its misery or boost iTunes Radio. (Apple has now  quietly confirmed the dealthe Swell website has been shut down now and the app has been removed from the App Store.)

This summer marks 15 years since the Napster peer-to-peer file-sharing service stormed onto the scene and made MP3-swapping all the rage. At its peak, Napster claimed 80 million users before its original incarnation was shut down by court order for copyright violations in 2001. After several years of being bought and sold, the remains of the company eventually merged with the Rhapsody streaming service and this week announced it had just hit the two-million subscriber mark. On the way back up at last!

Beats Electronics, another of Apple’s more recent acquisitions,  is getting sued by Bose Electronics. Bose, which makes a line of high-end and very popular noise-cancelling headphones says Beats infringed on five of its patents. Sounds like QuietComfort is getting ready to rumble…

Microsoft is also finding itself in a spot of legal bother this week, as the Chinese government is investigating the company for violations of its antitrust laws. Chinese officials have also investigated Qualcomm for alleged anti-trust violations in recent times.

Legal troubles overseas haven’t dampened Microsoft’s sense of fun when it comes to giving Apple a virtual wedgie on TV. The mighty Redmond giant is running a new television commercial for Windows Phone that shows off its Cortana virtual assistant being much more talented and helpful than Apple’s Siri software. The general theme of the ad is similar to last year’s Microsoft spots that touted its Surface tablets over Apple’s iPad.

raspberryMicrosoft is also cooking up its own recipe for Raspberry Pi. But while the bare-bones Pi computer (shown here) costs a mere $40, Microsoft’s own version of the naked circuit board computer is called Sharknado 3, er,  The Shark’s Cove and runs about $300. The Shark’s Cove is intended to be a serious dev board for programmers and less of a hobbyist gadget like the Pi. The Microsoft Shark board does come with a copy of Windows 8.1 and the oomph to actually run it.

A lower-cost cable plan that brings broadband, basic channels and HBO for about $49-a-month is said to be in the works. The budget package had a trial run with Comcast last year. Game of Thrones for fewer bones, perhaps?

marscakeAnd finally, up on Mars. We’d like to congratulate NASA’s Opportunity Rover for setting an off-world driving record. The rolling robot has been cruising around the Red Planet since 2004 and in that decade, racked up just over 25 miles on its little odometer.  And a big “Happy Birthday” this week to NASA itself. The agency came into existence on July 29, 1958, after Congress and President Eisenhower made it so with the creatively named National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. The mission? “To provide for research into problems of flight within and outside the earth’s atmosphere, and for other purposes.”  It’s not quite as poetic as, To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before,” but hey, you have to start somewhere.

PTJ 90: Court Cases and Fiber Races

El Kaiser has a new toy and he can’t wait to tell you all about it. This week he reviews the Mont Blanc E12 portable headphone amplifier from FiiO.  Let’s face it, ebooks are here to stay. J.D. fills us in on how to make margin notes and highlight our favorite passages on all the popular digital book readers.

In the news the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in  American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo; Lytro unveils a new camera; Rumors circulate that an Amazon smartphone will sport a radical new UI; Comcast reports its subscriber numbers are up; AT&T wants to beat Google in the Fiber Race; the AOL mail site is hacked; and Apple announces it plans to power all of its stores, data centers and offices with renewable energy sources.

PTJ 90 News: Now With More Fiber

The Supreme Court heard the legal arguments in American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo this week, a case that pits traditional over-the-air broadcast television companies against the feisty TV-streaming start-up with the wee antenna farms. Legal eagles and advocacy groups are watching closely and everyone  awaits the Court’s decision, which is expected by June.

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Creative types have some new outlets for expression. Serious photographers are buzzing about the new camera from Lytro and the Blurb service has made it easier for photographers and other visual artists to sell their works directly on Amazon.

And on the subject of Amazon, Bloomberg News is reporting on a study that shows Amazon’s sales numbers are down in states that collect online sales tax. (About 20 states currently tax Amazon purchases.)  Perhaps the company can make up the loss in spectacular smartphone sales. The Boy Genius Report site has more details on what it claims to be Amazon’s upcoming handset, including tilting gestures for control and navigation. (Could the smartphone UI paradigm be tilting — or maybe even shifting — as well?)

Even before its planned merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast continues to get larger. The company reported that its subscriber numbers were up for the second straight quarter, adding 24,000 new customers.

Comcast’s increasing size is what is driving monopoly fears in some people about the Time Warner Cable acquisition, and Netflix is one of the more recent companies to come out and voice its opposition to the pending deal. In a letter to its shareholders this week, Netflix said that with the decline of DSL in the broadband space, a combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable would have more than 60 percent of the broadband in US households.  Comcast quickly put up a response to Netflix on its website, claiming that “Netflix’s opposition to our Time Warner Cable transaction is based on inaccurate claims and arguments.” (Also mentioned in that Netflix shareholder letter: prices for new subscribers are about to get higher. )

Google has been making noise about bringing superfast Internet fiber to 34 cities in nine major metropolitan areas, but now AT&T is jumping into the game and says it’s considering adding its own fast fiber to 100 cities in 21 major metro areas. Nothing has been built yet, but AT&T is at least talking about it.

Google has other things on its plate besides fast fiber. The company has combined SMS text and Hangout chats into the same conversation so everything’s all in the same place. That’s new with the Hangouts 2.1 app for Android. The Venturebeat site quotes sources at The Goog who say the company is looking into ways to make end-to-end encryption tools like PGP easier to use with Gmail so that users can keep their mail locked up against prying eyes from the government or otherwise.

AOHellIf you abandoned an old AOL mail account for Gmail back in the day — or even if you still use AOL — you may see messages from your old address spewing spam across the Internet this week. The AOL Mail site was hacked over the weekend and spoofed accounts are sending phishing mail to addresses on AOL contacts lists. AOL has confirmed the hacking and said accounts had also been spoofed by spammers.

And finally, it was Earth Day this week, and Apple took the opportunity to announce that it has free recycling for all used Apple products and says it plans to power all of its stores, data centers and offices with renewable energy sources. The company’s redesigned Environmental Responsibility site has a video clip narrated by CEO Tim Cook that outlines Apple’s approach to green living. Critics of Apple’s approach point out that the company video neglects to mention that most of its products are built in China and that many Apple products are difficult to repair, especially for the do-it-yourself crowd who strives to keep old gear functioning and out of landfills. Hopefully, the Mighty Oak of Sustainability will one day grow out of Apple’s Acorn of 2014 Environmental Promises — or at least they’ll start designing gear with long-lasting batteries that are easy to replace and recycle.

Episode 58 News: Drive My Car

We’re deep into summer and you know what time that is — it’s time for DEFCON, the annual gathering of hacking enthusiasts in Las Vegas. There have been some announcements ahead of the event, including two researchers who were able to stop, start and steer a car with an old Nintendo handset and also control it with a laptop. (Forbes has some video.)

It wouldn’t be the Internet without malicious trolls, and heinous behavior over in the UK and an online petition recently has led Twitter to promise a new button on every tweet for reporting abuse on a company blog. Critics of the plan have chimed in to basically say it’s time to stop blaming technology and social media for society’s problems like rampant misogyny and racism, and maybe we ought to do something about those. Others worry that the abuse button itself may get abused.

bundroidGoogle popped out a couple of shiny new pieces of hardware last week, including the upgraded Nexus 7 tablet and a tiny, pocket-drive-sized media streamer called the Chromecast. The latter has some bugs to work out and a limited number of services it streams, but it is getting decent early reviews. However, Vimeo and RedBox Instant are also on the way. Google also found time to make big improvements to the old Zagat site, which it owns.

Apple released its iTunes 11.1 beta software to its registered developers this week along with the fourth version of its iOS 7 beta. As for hardware, the rumor mill is still grinding away with talk of a possible lower-priced iPhone arriving with the annual high-end upgrade. The new top-of-the-line model may also include a biometric fingerprint sensor, according to programmers looking deep into the iOS 7 betaware. Apple has a few legal issues to deal with this week as well. A Chinese labor rights group has a report out with new allegations against one the contractors used to make iPhones and other devices; Apple told the Wall Street Journal it was working with the group and investigating. Closer to home, some former Apple Store employees have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Mother Ship claiming retail workers routinely had to wait around for up to half an hour without pay while managers searched their bags.

In Star Wars news, composer John Williams will be returning to score the seventh film in the series, having done the music for the previous six installments. Over Doctor Who way, the 50th anniversary episode — the one which current companion Jenna Coleman says changes everything — will air November 23rd, with plans for the show to be simulcast in 200 countries around the world. (The show is broadcast at 7:00 p.m. in the United Kingdom, so make the calculations for your time zone here.)

And finally, Radio Times is reporting that Netflix will temporarily remove Star Trek III: The Search for Spock from its streaming inventory while it adds authentic subtitles for the film’s dialogue that’s spoken in the Klingon and Vulcan languages instead of having missing subtitles or the lines dubbed in English. This has been a complaint from fans of the film for quite awhile, although some may not need subtitles anyway. yIn nI’ yISIQ ‘ej yIchep!

Episode 56 News: The Dogged Days of Summer

Forget the Avengers and the Justice League: this season’s rootin’-tootin’ action team-ups include several major companies — including AOL, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo — are banding together with a new plan to fight digital piracy, that ongoing problem for media-makers in this modern age. There is also a coalition of groups coming together to sue the National Security Agency for all that recently uncovered “unconstitutional dragnet electronic surveillance.”  Meanwhile, staffers at Facebook and Buzzfeed are having a public squabble over a Buzzfeed story last week that was based on a Stanford University study and called “The Number Facebook Doesn’t Want You To See.” This prompted a Facebook engineer to fire back and say the story was “just plain wrong.” And so it goes.

Other academic studies are also popular this week. A recent one from researchers at Northwestern and MIT’s Sloan School of Management takes a look at just who writes negative product reviews online. The study, called Deceptive Reviews: The Influential Tail, presents evidence that many product reviews on a private-label retail site were written by people who did not actually purchase the product in question. As for croaking and squawking of another kind, researchers from the University of Puerto Rico are using iPods to automatically record endangered species. All this automated data acquisition is part of the ARBIMON system— which stands for automated remote biodiversity monitoring network and you can hear samples of some of the audio it’s analyzed here, including the musings of the cute little coquí frog.

The Verge site is reporting that Microsoft is still working on its prototype smartwatch and has moved the project over to the team behind its Surface touchscreen tablet computers. Speaking of small computers, there’s another tiny model that’s joining the ranks of the Raspberry Pi and other barebones PCs. CompuLab’s Utilite computer is about the size of a pack of index cards and starts at $100. Also getting smaller: the price tag on a BlackBerry Z10. BlackBerry CEO said it was the right time to adjust the price on the Z10, now that the newer Q10 model has arrived. Things are not so booming for Intel’s Thunderbolt technology either, as Acer is the latest laptop maker to ditch the high-speed communications port for the slower but less-expensive USB 3.0 jacks.

Need entertainment? If you find yourself looking up actors, movie trailers and other cinematic tidbits on the IMDb site, you can now follow through and buy tickets right in the mobile app for Android and iOS. Apple, perpetually rumored to be working on a TV-type product to enhance or build on its Apple TV box, may be working on a feature that lets viewers skip commercials for those who prefer to stay in front of their screens at home at chill without the shill. (Not to be outdone, Google is also said to be talking to media companies about getting content for its own online TV service.)

On the mobile front, two unfortunate smartphone incidents have recently occurred. Apple is investigating reports of an electrocution that happened when a woman in China answered a call on her iPhone 5 when it was plugged into the charger. This follows reports last week of a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone that spontaneously exploded in the pocket of a Swiss teenager and causing third-degree burns.

As for security news, the annoying fake FBI Ransomware that locks up Windows computers and demands payment has oozed over to the Mac. The Malwarebytes blog has full documentation on the nasty little JavaScript code and advice on how to ditch it; there’s a Q&A page as well.

And finally, out in space, NASA’s Hubble telescope has discovered a new moon orbiting the planet Neptune, and a small moon at that. Goodnight, moon!

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