We’re baaaaack! In an effort to burn off some of the calories we packed on during our time off we’ve put together a super-sized show. J.D. pits voice enabled personal assistants from Google and Apple against each other in a Hunger Games-style battle to the death! Okay, that may be a little heavy on the hyperbole but she does see what each can do. Musician, recording engineer, record producer and vintage home audio enthusiast Michael Puretz visits with El Kaiser to discuss affordable high-end stereo equipment. In the news Amazon tests drone deliveries for their Prime subscribers; Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One battle each other for holiday sales supremacy; Motorola has a Cyber Monday Meltdown; Apple’s iPad grabs close 70 percent of holiday tablet sales so far; and NASA confirms that Comet ISON has largely disintegrated.
Yes, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his ideas about drone delivery that he shared during his appearance on the CBS news show 60 Minutes last weekend grabbed a lot of attention — but was it real or a PR stunt? Octocopter dreams aside, the company is having a good time poking fun at Apple’s grandiose iPad commercials with one of its own comparing the new iPad Air with its own Kindle Fire HDX. But it wasn’t a total Week of Win: the US Supreme Court has decided not to take on the Amazon’s appeal in the fight with New York State over collecting sales tax.
The Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One and have been battling each other for holiday sales as well. Microsoft said its Xbox One also sold 1 million units in its first 24 hours to match the PlayStation 4’s opening-day numbers, although analysts have pointed out that the Xbox One debuted in 13 markets its first day, while the PS4 only launched in two countries at first. Sony recently announced the PS 4 has now sold 2.1 million units worldwide across 32 countries since it first arrived on November 15th here in North America.
Motorola, which was hoping to lure holiday shoppers with a $349 off-contract Moto X phone deal, had a Cyber Monday Meltdown. The Motomaker.com Web site reportedly crashed and burned due to intense demand, forcing Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside to issue an apology on the company’s blog and announce that the $349 deal will now also be valid Monday, December 9th.
Some industry watchers are forecasting Apple’s iPad line to have grabbed about 70 percent of the holiday sales market so far, and the company also seems to be getting some hefty sales on its new iPhone models as well. The research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said Apple got a significant sales bounce for the third quarter thanks to the release of the iPhone 5S and candy-colored iPhone 5C.
Apple, for its part, seems to be planning for the future with a couple of corporate acquisitions. The recent weeks, the company bought Topsy, a social-media analytics firm and PrimeSense, a company that makes motion-sensing technology. And Yahoo has whipped out the checkbox again as well, buying SkyPhrase for an undisclosed about of money. (SkyPhrase makes natural language processing technology and will be joining the Yahoo Labs team in New York.)
While this year is winding down in terms of new software updates and hardware releases, ZDNet reports that Microsoft is working on updates for its three major operating system platforms — Windows, Windows Phone and the Xbox One — for spring of 2015. Microsoft isn’t commenting, but there was one thing it did officially release this week: its long-promised cloud-based Student Advantage Office 365 Education offer for young academics is now live as of December 1st. And the company’s deal to buy Nokia’s handset business has gotten regulatory approval from the United States.
Google, which has six snow-globe-shaped temporary stores to sell its Chrome and Nexus wares, may be looking for more year-round retail space. The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the Google mystery barge that’s been under construction out in the San Francisco Bay is actually the first of three floating retail stores. Google says it plans to the use the structure as “an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.”
And finally, NASA has confirmed that Comet ISON, which astronomers first saw on September 21, 2012, largely disintegrated during its recent trip near the sun’s corona on November 28th. Check out the memorial post by astrophysicist Karl Battams and NASA’s explanatory page on ISON’s demise. Requiescat in pace, sweet Comet ISON, fragmented into history at the approximate age of 4.5 billion years.
Go, gamers, go! The Sony PlayStation 4 is out this Friday, November 15, and the Microsoft Xbox One arrives on November 22. Plenty of gaming sites will help you analyze the two and decide which one is best for you. And that Web ripple about the PS4 TOS prohibiting used games after all? A Sony exec took to Twitter to assure the faithful that they can resell and play previously owned games on the PS4.
In product news, Motorola will soon let customers with Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile create their own personalized versions of the Android smartphone and Apple quietly released the iPad Mini with Retina Display this week.
The AppleInsider site noted that not long after a Microsoft PR executive poo-poohed Apple’s iWork suite as “watered-down” imitation apps compared to Microsoft Office, the company put up giant billboards for its Surface tablet that showed the Excel software on the screen failing to correctly add up seven numbers on a spreadsheet. This led to much mocking online, but the TechCrunch blog says Microsoft did not get its math wrong, haters.
Google Glass wearers will soon have the option for stereo earbuds that let them listen to their Google Play music by commanding the Spendy Spectacles™. According to a report this month, the Motorola Mobility division of the company has filed a patent for an electronic, removable neck tattoo with an embedded microphone that can link up with a mobile phone. In addition to serving as a secret-agent way to make a mobile phone call without having the handset in site, the neck tattoo might have use as a lie detector. (Google’s also been busy with the Gmail this week, announcing several new enhancements to its Webmail service on its company blog; these new features add on to Gmail’s existing Inbox shortcuts.)
Want that sleek OS X/iOS look on PC hardware? Check out the Pear OS 8, a Linux variation for desktops and laptops — and soon, tablet hardware is everything goes according to plan. Will this mean a Thin-Skinned Fruit War if Apple takes offense?
As some of you may have suspected, Netflix and YouTube are responsible for more than half of peak fixed network data in North America as confirmed by Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena report. Speaking of audio, a new beta build of Google’s Chrome browser lets you know which one of your many open tabs is the one streaming the loud audio file that you need to close right away.
On the security front, Trend Micro just put out its Q3 2013 Security Roundup Report, which shows an increase in online banking malware infections, particularly in the US, Brazil and Japan. The 22-page report, available online, also described a noticeable uptick in phishing sites aimed at Mac OS X and iOS users.
And you’re not even safe in space from malware. According to Russian security expert Eugene Kaspersky, the International Space Station was infected with malware that rode along on a USB stick used by a Russian cosmonaut. The malicious program was not Stuxnet, as originally reported by some organizations, but Kaspersky said the Stuxnet virus had also infected a Russian nuclear power plant. (At least the laptops used aboard the space station were converted from Windows XP to Linux last spring, but if the aliens attack, we may need to dig up those old Macintosh PowerBooks running System 7 to defeat them.)
And finally, the Roomba — the popular roving robot vacuum cleaner — has gotten a redesign. The iRobot Roomba 880 has ditched the brush cylinders and moved to a new AeroForce system of spinning thermoplastic polyurethane tubes. In addition to being a more efficient method of dirt removal, no brushes means: no hairballs. Now, if we can just get cats to switch to spinning thermoplastic polyurethane tubes…
As relief groups and charities collect donations for much needed supplies to help the typhoon ravaged Philippines, how do you know which organization is best for your contribution? J.D. gives us the rundown on how to avoid the dirtbags and fly-by-night outfits when lending a hand. The snow has El Kaiser in a foul mood but he lightens up a bit to share more smartphone battery tips, this time for Android devices. In the news Sony assures gamers that they can indeed play used games on the PS4 despite what the terms and conditions read; Motorola drops the price of their Moto X and makes it easier to get; they also file a patent for a neck patch that can let you make phone call or act as a lie-detector; Apple vs. Microsoft sniping heats up over a Surface 2 billboard; Google Glass gets stereophonic sound; and dig out that Pentium desktop from the garage! A new Linux distro offers the look and feel of Apple’s newer operating systems on old gear.
This week J.D. shares tips on how to use the web to get the perfect digital camera then she and Pedro discuss the recent announcement that veteran British actor Peter Capaldi will take a turn as the time travelling Time Lord, Doctor Who. In the news Comcast is working on a new system urging users to download copyrighted material legally; CBS and Time Warner Cable continue their Battle of the Gargantuans; Samsung maybe inching closer to unveiling a smartwatch; the FBI may be targeting Firefox users on the TOR network; and not even your toilet is immune from the hacking scourge.
Would you like fries with that illegal download — or at least, a Buy button? According to a report in Variety, Comcast is said to be working on a new system where ISPs that sense users downloading copyrighted material from sharing sites and then sends out a pop-up message to the user with links to legally purchase the same content. Meanwhile, the squabble between Time Warner cable and CBS continues and viewers are not amused.
In the Department of New Stuff, the National Football League has released its new mobile app for Android, BlackBerry and iOS. LinkedIn has also updated its mobile app to allow job-hunters to apply for listed positions right within the app. The Smartwatch Watch continues. PC World and other sources have reported that Samsung has filed a US trademark on the name “Samsung Galaxy Gear.”
No one one’s surprise, Google announced the new Moto X smartphone last week. In a move that surprised pretty much everyone in media, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, bought the Washington Post newspaper this week for $250 million dollars, or the change in the cushions of his couch.
New malware found in sites hosted by Freedom Hosting is targeting Firefox users on the Tor network. Because the malware sends the user’s information to someplace in Reston, Virginia, some security researchers are thinking the FBI may be involved in the hack.
Last week, we worried about cars getting hacked. This week, high-tech toilets could fall victim to foul play. Trustwave, a security company, recently put out a warning about the Android app used with luxury Satis smart toilets made by Lixil. Because the Bluetooth PIN for the app is hardcoded to 0000, a hacker could grab a copy of the app, pair up a device with your toilet and then assume control of the bidet function or abuse the high-tech commode’s Direct Vortex Flush. (With ABC television executives talking to folks in Disney’s new Lucasfilm division about possibly producing a live-action Star Wars TV show, maybe they could use some new characters — like Direct Vortex Flush, Sith apprentice.)
Need a tablet computer? Microsoft has dropped the price on its pricier Surface Pro tablet computers. Apple’s iPad saw a sales decline of its own during this past quarter. According to IDC, the iPad went from having 60.3 percent of the tablet market last year at this time to 32.4 percent here in 2013. The new hardware rumors are starting to heat up for fall, though, with “a Retina display iPad Mini with different color options that arrives next month” as one of this week’s whispers.
In other quick Apple bites, the company is offering to replace third-party chargers. Apple is also set to restore the rest of the services on its developer site this week, as it finishes overhauling the system in wake of last month’s security issues (and just in time to push out a fifth beta for its iOS 7 software due out this fall). Oh, and Electronic Arts has announced that Mac gamers can play Sim City starting August 29th. Mark your calendars.
And finally, we have two notable milestones to acknowledge this month. August 5th marked the the first anniversary of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars — NASA has a video. August also marks the 50th anniversary of the humble cassette, which made its official debut at a radio show in Berlin in 1963. Still have a recorder and a few old blank tapes out in the garage? Here are some song ideas for a Mars-worthy mix.