Tag Archives: malware

PTJ 189 News: Eyes on the Prize

The race is on between Sony and Samsung to patent smart contact lenses that function as cameras floating atop your eyeballs. Yes, eyeball cameras.  Sony’s design even makes it hard to tell someone is even wearing an eyeball camera. But let’s not forget Google, which received a patent for a solar-powered contact lens last year and recently just got a patent for what’s described as an intra-ocular device; it sounds sort of like a bionic eye that could perhaps be used to help with degenerative vision diseases.

riftSpeaking of eyeballs, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is headed to 48 Best Buy stores on May 7th, and will be included as part of a special in-store promotional kiosk called The Intel Experience. A small number of units available for sale at those particular Best Buy outlets, too. You can look up the stores involved on Best Buy’s site. Amazon and Microsoft plan to start taking Oculus Rift orders at 9 a.m. Pacific time on May 6th.

Microsoft has decided that its Cortana virtual assistant for Windows 10 is not going to be allowed to play with other company’s web browsers and search engines. No Cortana for you, Google Chrome.

Yahoo hasn’t found anybody to pick up its pieces yet, but it has cut its list of potential dance partners down to 10 companies. Whatever happens, though, Yahoo CEO (and micromanager of bad logos) Marissa Mayer will make out all right. A  Securities and Exchange Commission filing revealed she’ll get a severance package worth about 55 million bucks if she’s booted within a year of any sale. No ramen noodles and Tang dinners for you, Marissa Mayer. (Unless you want them, that is.)

bitcoinArguments about the true identity of Bitcoin’s anonymous founder have bubbled up this week. Australian businessman Craig Wright has claimed he is the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, elusive founder of Bitcoin, but the Motherboard blog over at Vice isn’t buying it.

From the ever-expanding Department of Mergers & Acquisitions News, Comcast/NBC Universal made a deal to buy the DreamWorks animation studio for $3.8 billion. Also, the online video-sharing site Vimeo has acquired VHX. And there are even more video-streaming services than ever now, as Hulu is said to be preparing its own service to bundle streams of broadcast and cable channels to paid subscribers. This would move Hulu away from being primarily a streaming TV rerun site with a few original shows to an enticing option for cord-cutters.

robotsecurityGoogle has changed the name of its own monthly Nexus Security Bulletins patch collection to the more inclusive Android Security Bulletin, and this week’s May is intended to fix about 40 vulnerabilities in the mobile operating system. Many of the holes in the Mediaserver software for Android are on the fix list here. And make sure when you do update apps on your Android device, get them from the Google Play store itself and not from a website disguising itself as an Android update site. This is because there’s a new little piece of malware on the loose that claims to be an update for Android’s Chrome browser, but it’s really an infostealer app.

Google may have found a hardware partner for its self-driving cars. Bloomberg News is reporting Fiat Chrysler plans to team up with the Big G on prototypes based on the Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

Some exciting typing news: The popular Google Keyboard app just got a big update this week.  Also in keyboard developments, the Giphy Keys app for iOS arrived this week, making it easier than ever to add just the right animated loop to your messages. No boring messages for you, Giphy Keys user.

gkeys

Consumer Encryption and Government Security concerns continue to clash. This week, it’s Brazil throwing a 72-hour block on the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messenger service after Facebook refused to hand over information requested for a criminal investigation. Another judge in Brazil soon overturned the order.

includeSeveral women working in the tech industry have come together to form a new nonprofit venture called Project Include that hopes to help the aforementioned tech industry work on its diversity issues. Let’s check back this time next year to see if anything has changed.

And finally,  Ad-Block Plus, the popular ad-blocking extension, and Flattr, a micropayment service that lets its users donate money have teamed up a new service called Flattr Plus that lets you set a content budget and then send money to the sites you actually spent time reading. No money for you, clickbait sites.

PTJ 177 News: Unboxed

Might the cable bill have fewer line items in the future? The Federal Communications Commission would like to make it happen! While the intended merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications is still under review and the agency is defending its net neutrality policy against attacks and appeals, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler got the cable industry in a further tizzy by announcing a proposal that would do away with the practice of customers having to rent their set-top boxes from their service providers. Cable companies: Not so happy.

budget2017President Obama sent his last budget to Congress this week, and out of the $4 trillion dollars total, the budget requested $19 billion dollars for national cybersecurity. The new plan calls for a chunk of change to finally upgrade federal workers off their ancient totally hackable computer systems. Case in point, according to VICE’s Motherboard site, an anonymous hacker has threatened to dump gigabytes of employee information grabbed off a Justice Department computer. Homeland security, indeed.

A worldwide tweetstorm began to brew over the weekend after BuzzFeed reported that Twitter was getting ready to change its real-time reverse chronological feed into a Facebook-like algorithm-run arrangement that shows you tweets the program thinks you want to see rather than what’s happening at the moment.  Wired defused some of the tweet-rage saying the new version of Twitter basically expands the While You Were Away highlights of older tweets. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also responded. Oh, and Twitter launched its First View ads this week, which are video adverts that sit on top of your newsfeed so you can’t miss them.

bird

Speaking of Wired, the site is cracking down on ad-blocking and soon plans to start restricting access to the site for readers cruising by in a browser with an ad-blocker. You can also give them money to get rid of the ads.

Facebook’s promise of free Internet — or at least Facebook’s version of the Internet — has been rejected by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the government authority there who blocked the Social Network’s Free Basics app. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to press on.

Instagram, also owned by Facebook, had better news. The official blog announced an update to its app that allows you to add multiple accounts and then easily switch between them.

Home theater hobbyists who have been eagerly awaiting the Samsung UBD-K8500 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player to buy won’t have to wait much longer. Samsung jumped its own expected March release date for the player to slip a few units into the Video & Audio Center out in Santa Monica, where they quickly sold out.

Google Cardboard has been the on-ramp into the world of virtual reality for a lot of people, but Google is now said to be working on a higher-end VR headset to rival the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift gear. Google is not commenting on its plans.

linuxtabletCanonical, the company that makes Ubuntu Linux, just announced the Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition tablet produced with European hardware maker BQ and is expected to go on sale next month. The Penguin Pad has a 10-inch screen and runs the touch-screen version of Ubuntu.

But be very careful when shopping for USB-C cables. The Verge site reports that the faulty or improper wiring on cheap uncertified USB-C cables has actually shorted out laptops due to incorrect power usage.  The article points to lists of cables that have been tested to work correctly, but also calls USB industry groups to come up with reliable certification procedures because nobody wants fried laptop for dinner.

StubHub is  moving into direct sales with a new ticketing platform. The new system won’t delineate between second-hand resellers and direct sales from the venue’s box office and lets StubHub give TicketMaster a lot more competition. StubHub is also partnering with the Philadelphia 76ers to sell tickets to the team’s games when the NBA season starts up this fall.

And finally, if you long for a more simpler time when computer viruses were not just out to steal your money and identity, visit the Malware Museum online at the Internet Archive. Curated by security expert Mikko Hypponen of F-Secure, the emulated selections in the museum have been cleansed of their destructive power but show you the sometimes-whimsical messages left by hackers in a gentler, DOS-based era.

frodovirus

PTJ 134 News: Clicks and Clacks

meerkatThere’s a ton of news coming out of the SXSW conference down in Austin, Texas, this week, including a new smartphone app called Meerkat that lets its users broadcast live video from their smartphones to their Twitter followers. Part of Meerket’s ease of use was that it can tap into a user’s Twitter contacts and get the party started fast. But last Friday, however, Twitter shut down access to its social graph, citing an internal policy. Twitter may have been treating Meerkat like a parasite app, and the fact that the bird-themed microblogging site quickly turned around and announced its January acquisition of Periscope seems a bit calculated. Some worry that Meerkat’s popularity and expansion will take a fatal hit unless it in turn gets bought by Facebook or Google, but the company’s founders vow to press on after all the PR at SXSW.

It’s March Madness again and we expect time-outs on the basketball court, but the Federal Communications Commission has called a time-out and stopped the clock (again) in the 180-day review periods for the pending Comcast/Time Warner Cable and AT&T/DirecTV mergers. This time, the stoppage is due to a pending court decision about the disclosure of video-programming contracts between the service providers and content companies.

HBO’s new standalone streaming service has picked up another distributor along with Apple TV. Cablevision has announced that it, too, will allow subscribers to its Optimum broadband service sign up and stream content from HBO NOW without having to already have an HBO tithe bundled in their TV packages.

NBCBut that’s not all in streaming TV news this week! The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is talks to create a small, 25-channel bundle of TV networks that could be subscribed to and streamed across the screens of iOS gadgets and connected Apple TV boxes. Apple, of course, Is. Not. Commenting. As reported, the deal could include streams from ABC, CBS, ESPN and Fox. While NBC has been MIA on the ATV, there are reports that The Peacock Network is actually in negotiations with Apple,  too.

Apple is also said to be revamping its trade-in and recycling program for old gear to include smartphones made by other manufacturers. The current program offers Apple Store Gift Cardsfor the value of the Apple product you want to unload so you can upgrade. According to the blog 9to5Mac, Apple Store employees will determine the trade-in value for old Android, Blackberry, WinPhone and other competing handsets and even transfer address-book contacts for new iPhone owners.

Facebook has updated its Community Standards policy and is bringing down the ban-hammer on nudity, with the usual non-porn exceptions like “art.” On the other side of the coin, Google is reversing course on its recent decision on adult content. Instead of outright banning sexual images, Google’s updated policy now says you can post your non-commercial naughty bits as long as you turn on the adult content warning for your blog.

Two notes from YouTube this week: The massive video-sharing site now supports interactive 360 degree videos. YouTube also announced its new YouTube for Artists effort, a resource portal for musicians seeking to get more audience engagement, as well as making money on YouTube through merchandise sales and online fundraising.

googlenowGoogle Now, the helpful-yet-creepy tool that automatically reminds you of things like restaurant reservations and flight times by using information in your Gmail, Google Calendar and other services, could be expanding its powers soon. A Google product manager said this week that the company plans to offer an open API that other companies can build into their own apps. This would move Google Now’s reach from beyond the 40 third-party services it works with already and could, in theory, add Google Now cards for things like line-wait times at theme parks, all while making Cortana and Siri feel like they need to step it up.

Google is also said to be tightening up app submissions in the Google Play Store by having a team of reviewers analyze the programs for developer policy violations before the software gets turned loose in the store. Apps will also be labeled using an age-based ratings system.

Nintendo is trying to get back in the game of games. The company has formed a partnership with DeNA to develop games for mobile gadgets and smart devices.

Microsoft has updated its Malicious Software Removal Tool to zap the controversial and security-exploitable Superfish adware that had been preinstalled by Lenovo on many of its new laptops sold between September 2014 and February 2015. Lenovo has also released its own Superfish Removal Tool and probably feels pretty guilty about the whole thing now.

The Pew Research Center has a new report out that examines how Americans feel about their privacy (or lack thereof) after revelations and leaks from the Department of Edward Snowden. While a majority of the survey respondents are in favor of the US government monitoring communications of suspected terrorists, American leaders and foreign leaders and citizens, there was also a majority that said it was unacceptable for the US government to monitor the communications of its own citizens.

hellobarbieChild privacy advocates are forming petitions and making a ruckus over the new Hello Barbie doll, which is a Wi-Fi capable version of the iconic blonde toy lady. The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is one of the groups leading the charge against the new doll because it says this $75 Internet-connected Barbie uses a microphone to record children’s voices and then uploads the audio data to servers in the sky. While Mattel says this voice-recognition process is needed to make the doll interactive and respond to the kid, some parents are concerned that the company will be storing and analyzing the child’s conversations with NSA Barbie — or possibly be eavesdropping on the whole family.

And finally, the geek world lost another cherished icon last week with the death of Sir Terry Pratchett, British author of the Discworld series of fantasy novels. In honor of Sir Terry, fans and programmers have come up with a way to keep his name alive on the Internet based on a bit from his 2004 novel Going Postal. In the book, the Clacks, a telegraph-style communications system, was used to keep alive the name of one of the novel’s deceased characters by passing the code GNU John Dearheart endlessly back and forth across the network. So the fanbase came up with GNU Terry Pratchett, a snippet of code that can be added harmlessly to website HTML, mail servers and even WordPress blogs. Because:

GNUTP

PTJ 120: NASA and the Troll Patrol

This week El Kaiser shares his ickiest Tech Term yet and J.D. tells us all about Twitter’s new “Troll Patrol”.  In the news NASA’s Orion spacecraft completes a successful test flight; the first Coder In Chief; Facebook modifies its search function; Princeton University puts thousands of documents written by Albert Einstein online; Amazon rolls out 4K streams; the FCC wants wireless carriers to ste up efforts to protect consumer data; researchers discover Linux-based malware that’s been active for years; the fallout from cyber-attack on SONY’s networks continues; and the father of the videogame passes away.

PTJ 120 News: Readin’, Writin’ and Roarin’ Through Space

Yes, it’s officially  Computer Science Education Week now and companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple are into it, with many sponsoring the Hour of Code project with Code.org . For instance, Apple is holding coding events at its Apple Stores and Google’s YouTube site has plenty of inspirational videos. President Obama even hosted an event at the White House with middle-school students and banged out a few lines of JavaScript, perhaps getting some training for that inevitable job switch that’ll be happening in a couple years.

mcThe past week has been great for space. Last Friday, NASA’s Orion spacecraft completed a successful test flight, with a launch at Cape Canaveral, orbit around the Earth a few times and splashdown in the Pacific less than five hours later. Just a day later, on  Saturday, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft woke up out of its hibernation state just in time for its 2015 mission to observe Pluto, the celestial body many of us still consider to be a planet at the outer edges of our solar system. And lets not forget our old pal Curiosity (left) is still hard at work up on Mars. The geographical data gathered by NASA’s busy little rover over the past 28 months of exploring has helped scientists study and theorize about the lakes and streams that used to exist on the Red Planet in warmer times. (Oh, and a Canadian company wants a little cool Mars action itself – Thoth Technology is calling for a crowdfunding campaign to make, among other things, a “Beaver” rover to represent Canada on Mars.)

Facebook is tinkering once again with the site’s search function. While its Graph Search feature was released almost a year ago, its clunky semantic search engine was too much work for a lot of people. This week, Facebook announced that is was rolling out good old-fashioned keyword search.

Einstein

Princeton University has put thousands of documents written by Albert Einstein online. The site, called The Digital Einstein Papers, is part of a larger ongoing project called The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. The new site covers the first 44 years of Einstein’s life and features digitized letters, scholarly articles and other material .

In streaming video news, Amazon announced some of its Instant Video streams are now available in ultra high-def 4K. And YouTube has overhauled its app for the Apple TV, bringing predictive search, personalized recommendations and a new visual design to the screen

The Federal Communications Commission continues its rampant news grab as it still contemplates Net Neutrality. The agency has now found time to release a 140-page report on mobile phone theft and has some suggestions for wireless carriers to help protect consumers and their data.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have discovered Linux-based malware that’s been active for years and aimed at computers in government, military, education, research and pharmaceutical networks in 45 different countries.

sonyThe recent hack of  Sony’s network is still spewing fallout. A group calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” or GOP, have dumped a whole lot of confidential Sony data out into the public, including celebrity aliases and contract information, internal emails between Sony employees, personal information about said Sony employees including 47,000 Social Security numbers, and digital copies of several new and unreleased Sony films, including the remake of Annie due in theaters December 19th. According to a message posted on the GitHub code-sharing site, one of the demands was to “stop showing the movie of terrorism,” which is believed to be a reference to an upcoming Seth Rogen-James Franco film called The Interview, which is about a plot to assassinate Kim Jon-Un, the current leader of North Korea.  North Korean officials have denied involvement but have referred to it as a “righteous deed.” Sony has hired security consultants to figure out what happened (perhaps, Team America: World Police?). This would almost make for a good videogame, if only the PlayStation network wasn’t getting hacked again.

In happier movie news, there’s a new extension for the Google Chrome browser that gives you an interactive tour of Middle-earth so you can celebrate the opening of the third-and supposedly final movie in the Hollywood “Hobbit” trilogy properly.

middleearth

And in even happier movie news, the 88-second teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens landed on the Web and in select movie theaters, sending geeks everywhere to analyze the visuals down to every last frame of video. Among the hot topics of discussion — the cross-hilt lightsaber and exterior modifications made to the Millennium Falcon. The lightsaber design seemed to draw the most attention, even drawing in late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert. And with the official teaser comes the parody teasers, including the J.J. Abrams lens-flare edition, the George Lucas version, the Other George Lucas version, the Wes Anderson Adaptation and even an amusing parody on Saturday Night Live, a show that’s been around even longer that the Star Wars franchise itself.

And finally, let us pour one out for Ralph Baer, who died this weekend at the age of 92. Mr. Baer, who was born in Germany and fled the Nazis and was an intelligence officer in the US Army by 1943. In 1966, Mr. Baer wrote out a four-page description for a “game box” designed to let people play sports and other action games on a TV set. His work eventually resulted in the Magnavox Odyssey game system in 1972 and he also invented the electronic Simon game in 1978.

Ralph Baer, father of the videogame, we salute you.

baer

PTJ 119: Giving Thanks For Star Wars Trailers And Keyboard Shortcuts

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us here in the United States the team at PTJ HQ can’t thank you all enough for supporting us so passionately over these last few years. Both J.D. and I don’t have plans of stopping any time soon since we continue to have a wonderful time doing the show. We promise to keep serving up our special brand of insight and shenanigans—along with the occasional surprise—if you promise to keep coming back for more.

A very special thanks to the BROS!

When we say we wouldn’t be here without them that is a 100% accurate statement. They convinced us to make the leap to doing the show on our own and have supported us every step of the way.  A heartfelt bushel of gratitude from all of us at HeadStepper Media and Pop Tech Jam!

This week on the show, J.D. is thinking of linking and shares a slew of helpful keyboard shortcuts with us. In the news the FCC reaches an agreement with T-Mobile about their throttling practices; the Federal Aviation Administration is prepares a set of new rules for commercial drones; the European Union is expected to vote on breaking up Google’s business; Apple sees (RED); the United States and the United Kingdom are suspects behind a sophisticated series of cyber attacks against the European Union; Barbie (and Mattel) **** it up again; and the first teaser trailer of  Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters this weekend.

PTJ 119 News: Feminist Hacker Barbie Needs That Wireless Spectrum For Her Robot Army

The Federal Communications Commission is certainly keeping itself  busy when it’s not mulling Net Neutrality. The agency reached an agreement with T-Mobile on Monday that makes Big Pink accurately show consumers when their connections are being throttled. The FCC’s first wireless spectrum auction since 2008 has some ready customers. The auction has already generated $30 billion, which is about three times more than anticipated.

And yes, there’s still no decision on net neutrality at the moment, but Chairman Tom Wheeler is already facing reality. “Look, the big dogs are going to sue, regardless of what comes out,” said Mr. Wheeler. “We need to make sure we have sustainable rules. That starts with making sure we have addressed the multiplicity of issues that come along and are likely to be raised.” (Just think of it as CYA for the FCC here in the USA.)

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Federal Aviation Administration is preparing a set of new rules for commercial drones that could give them their corner of the sky at last. More worrisome at the moment, however, are those increasing reports of non-commercial drones flying too close to airplanes and helicopters, so expect that issue to get addressed before too long.

robotK5We’ve got robot butlers and vacuum cleaners and now Microsoft is testing out robot security guards in its Silicon Valley campus. The Knightscope K5 autonomous robots will be on the market next year, are equipped with thermal imaging, chemical sensors, license-plate and facial-recognition software. It can patrol a perimeter much like a human security guard. The K5s are about five-feet tall and look a little bit like while plastic Daleks, so really, what could go wrong?

Meanwhile, the European Union is expected to vote this week to break up Google’s business. Also in business news: Aereo has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Samsung is reportedly considering changes to its executive leadership team after sales of its Galaxy S5 smartphone fell short of expectations by 40 percent.

If you visit Apple’s online store within the next week or so, you’ll be seeing red. No, not over the premium prices, but (RED), the world organization to fight AIDS in Africa. Over the next two weeks, Apple will be donating the proceeds from certain products to the global fund. On Monday, World AIDS Day, the company will donate a portion of every item sold.

applered

The antivirus company Symantec was the first to discover a lurking piece of malware called Regin that’s a suspect in sophisticated cyber attacks against the European Union and a Belgian telecom company for the past several years. Agencies from United States and the United Kingdom are the main suspects behind Regin, according to some security experts.

The computer networks at Sony Pictures were reportedly hacked and rendered so unusable that employees were warned not to connect to the company’s corporate network or to check their work email. The group Guardians of Peace is claiming responsibility, saying it will leak confidential documents unless its undisclosed demands are met.

If you need to kill some time this long holiday weekend, check out the new Pew Research Internet Project study called What Internet Users Know About Technology and the Web and take a quiz that tests your Web IQ. Go on, you know you love those online quizzes.

babsA book published in 2010 called Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer recently caught the eye of author and screenwriter Pamela Ribon. However, the book’s plot turned out to be so demeaning to not only women in technology — but women in general — that it quickly became a viral virtual skeet target. Ms. Ribon kicked things off with a post on her own blog called “Barbie [Bad Word] It Up Again” and the story revved up. Mattel yanked the title and even issued an apology on Facebook saying the book was four years old and didn’t reflect the Barbie brand’s vision.

But then something great happened. Casey Fiesler, a PhD student in Human-Centered Computing at Georgia Tech, (who also happens to be writing her dissertation on copyright and online remix communities), rewrote the book with a positive, empowering message and posted her version online. Kathleen Tuite, a computer science PhD student at the University of Washington, stepped it up and and built the Feminist Hacker Barbie, a text editor that allows people to add in their own delightfully profane new captions for the illustrations in the original book and post them online under the hashtag #FeministHackerBarbie. As Ms. Fiesler noted, a major theme of the remix community is “If you don’t like the narrative, change it!” And that’s exactly what they did.

forceAnd finally, StarWars.com has confirmed that 30 theaters around the country will be showing an 88-second teaser trailer of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens starting this Friday, November 28th. This is not the first time word of a way-advance trailer has been announced, as Star Wars fans also lined up to see a trailer for The Phantom Menace back in November 1998. Don’t fret if you can’t get to the movies this weekend or don’t live in a trailer-worthy city, as the teaser will go wide and hit theaters everywhere in December. And how much you wanna bet that thing will be online somewhere by lunchtime Friday?

(UPDATE: It was. And the fans have already begun to dissect it.)

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 106: Guardians of the Geekery

Summer fun is over and El Kaiser has something to get off his chest in his Tech Term this week and JD has tips on how to stream local newscasts from most of the U.S. directly to your television.

In the news, Facebook tinkers with user newsfeeds once again; Instagram releases a new app for creating time-lapse videos;  Fashion designer Ralph Lauren tests out iOS-connected nylon shirts that track the wearer’s fitness stats at the U.S. Tennis Open Championships; Hackers take down the Sony PlayStation Network; Amazon buys the game-video streaming company Twitch; the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) sounds a warning about a new Backoff malware version; Apple begins a huge push for its Beats Music app; and Hewlett-Packardrecalls its LS-15 model AC power cords due to fire and burn hazards.