The annual Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up in Las Vegas last week, leaving El Kaiser and J.D. plenty of new gadgets to mull, from “intelligent” toilets to high-concept “social-empathy robots.” But other stuff happened outside of Vegas, too — Facebook changed up its News Feed, Spectre and Meltdown patches rolled out, and half of California seems to be suing Apple over that iPhone slowdown move. Spin up Episode 258 to hear it all!
Facebook mess with the News Feed? Really!?! But seriously, according to Mashable and a few other sites, images of a new tabbed news feed screen for mobile devices have been spotted on Twitter. Facebook did confirm that it is indeed testing the new design, but did not say if or when it would actually launch.
Also in Google news, the company’s Android Security 2015 Annual Report was released this week. The company touts its monthly security updates, better screening for potentially harmful apps in the Google Play store and greater adoption of its app verification service as factors in making Android devices safer than before, but it notes that there are still a steady number of malware, ransomware and other nasty apps lurking out there.
Amazon is taking a shot at Netflix’s monthly streaming fees by making its own Amazon Prime service available as, you guessed it, a monthly subscription instead of an annual fee. And speaking of Netflix, that company is raising its monthly fees by 25 percent for longtime streaming customers next month.
And finally, if you love NASA and you live vintage graphic design and branding standards, you can now buy a copy of the space agency’s official graphics manual first published in 1976. The book is 220 pages with 129 image plates and comes individually packages in a static-shielding pouch. This is actually a reissue of the original book, of which only 40 copies were originally printed. The new version is a Kickstarter project that can now be ordered only for $79 a copy.
The hills are alive with the sound of earnings calls! Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has now passed Apple and wins the Most Valuable Company prize. The murmurs started Monday night , when Alphabet’s market cap hit about $570 billion, shooting by Apple’s mere $535 billion. So Alphabet is on top, for now. And like Apple, blogs are reporting that Google may be preparing to take tighter control over its own Nexus hardware line, much like Apple’s iron grip on both the hardware and software for its iOS devices.
Speaking of iPhones, however, 9to5Mac.com is floating the idea that Apple will be having a big media event on March 15th to announce new hardware (including an iPad Air 3), but we haven’t seen any invitations yet. One thing Apple probably won’t be talking much about is the recent death of its ad-supported iTunes Radio service which only arrived in late 2013. If you try to play an old station you created and are not an Apple Music subscriber, you will get a nag alert telling you to sign up for Apple Music, where you can still use the stations as part of your subscription. Also in streaming music news, The Recording Industry Association of America has said it will now include on-demand audio and video streams and a track sale equivalent for calculating those Gold & Platinum Album Awards.
As announced on its site this week with the headline “Using Qualitative Feedback to Show Relevant Stories,” Facebook is making an change to the News Feed algorithm. Because that’s never happened before.
As threatened, er, promised last fall, Microsoft has switched the status of its Windows 10 update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users from Optional to Recommended, so it may initiate the installation sequence on its own before it’s manually stopped. Let the howls from Windows 7 users (shown below) commence…
If you watch A LOT of television and find that two — or even four — TV tuners are just not enough, the DISH network is ready to help you out. It just released the DISH Hopper 3, a digital video recorder with a 16 tuners and built-in 4K resolution. The Hopper 3 is available for about $15 a month to Dish Network satellite TV customers.
Meanwhile, across the pond, the European Commission and the United States have resolved that little tussle over the old Safe Harbour system for American companies handling the privacy rights of Europeans. The new framework is to be called the EU-US Privacy Shield.
According to Open Signal’s “State of Mobile Networks: USA” report, T-Mobile has won three network comparison tests, including 3G download speeds and latency, as well as 4G speeds. Verizon had the most 4G coverage, so Big Red still gets some bragging rights.
Google has also made it possible now for you to download a complete copy of your Web search history with the site. That is, all the searches you made, (good, bad or naughty), when you were logged in with your Google account for Gmail or another G-service. Remember, though, this is just a copy of your web-search history and doesn’t remove the original information from Google’s records. But you can go into your account’s search and browsing history and delete the information there.
Google’s YouTube is also clearing out a little old history. According to a blog post on the YouTube house engineering blog, the company will be retiring its Data API v2. So, why should you care? Here’s why: A help page on the YouTube site said “select devices” manufactured in 2012 or earlier will be affected and will no longer be able to use the YouTube app. This includes second-generation and earlier Apple TV boxes, Apple devices running iOS 6 or older, some Sony and Panasonic Internet-connected television sets and Blu-Ray players and hardware running older versions of Google TV. Third-generation Apple TV boxes can upgrade to the new version of the YouTube app. Smart TVs and game consoles left out in the YouTube cold may be able to use the site through their web browsers. Bummer if you have the three-old hardware, but this is ultimately a GoogTube decision.
Early reports from last fall claiming that Amazon would be launching a hotel-shopping service has proven true. The new site is called Amazon Destinations and goes beyond the previous hotel deals offered by Amazon Local for regional deals near you. So far, your destination with Amazon Destinations is just limited to Los Angeles, New York and Seattle, and you need to get there by car or ground-based transport because it’s local. But it’s a start.
Hewlett Packard is tossing out Snapfish after 10 years of ownership. The computer maker is cleaving itself into two companies, (one for enterprise, one for personal computers and printers) and is selling the Snapfish photo-sharing site to District Photo. Snapfish customers will continue to use HP printing services even after the sale, however.
Many modders love the Cyanogen open-source operating system based on Google’s Android. Microsoft seems to love it enough to form a strategic partnership with the company. Microsoft services like Skype, OneDrive, Outlook, OneNote, Office and Bing will be integrated into future versions of the Cyanogen OS .
Meanwhile, researchers at the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center have published a report in the Journal Zootaxa documenting a new species of glass frog that some observers say looked very similar to one Kermit the Frog. The similarity is noted on the little creature’s Wikipedia page, which describes it as “The frog is a lime-green coloured amphibian with translucent skin on its underside and has a horizontally shaped pupil that makes it look like Kermit, the Muppet.” Okay, that deserves a bonafide Kermit Flail:
And finally, last week’s new teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens not only put a lump in the throat and a hope in the heart of many a Generation Xer, it also gave a bump to Disney’s stock price. Although the stock got a brief $2 billion dollar goose after the trailer’s debut, share prices dipped back into normal territory the next day. But The Force Awakens was not the only Star Wars news last week. At the Star Wars Celebration expo in California, Disney and Lucasfilm executives shared details for a new film Rogue One, which will be a standalone chapter in the new Star Wars Anthology series. Rogue One is set between the events of Episode III and IV and is supposed to tell the story of how the rebels stole the plans to the Death Star in the first place. The new film is said to be darker in tone than the films in the two trilogies, and is due out December 2016. Let’s raise a glass to the Bothans for finally getting their story told. L’chaim, Bothans!
This week J.D. and El Kaiser play “Stump the Music Recognition App”. In the news, the annual SxSW Festival in Texas is in full swing; the release of a potential new tent-pole game for the XBox One; Apple quietly rolls out an update to iOS 7; Windows 8.1, Update 1 is leaked; Google announces several new add-ons for Google Docs and Sheets; Samsung gets into the personalized music-service business; and the ‘Veronica Mars’ film based on the cult TV favorite makes it to the big-screen after hugely successful crowd-funding campaign.
Everyone wants to go to the annual SxSW Festival in Texas these days! With a little help from the American Civil Liberties Union, Edward Snowdon, the former National Security Agency contractor who has released thousands of confidential documents about government data collection to the public, appeared to festival attendees via a livestream from a Google Hangout video chat bounced through seven proxy servers. Mr. Snowdon chose to address the techies at SxSW because (in part), “the NSA is setting fire to the future of the Internet and you guys are the firefighters.”
The Xbox One may be lagging behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 in game console sales, but the release of the hotly anticipated Titanfall game for Microsoft’s platform may help even things up. The first-person shooter from Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts went on sale this past Tuesday after many awards and promo events.
Google announced several new add-ons for its Google Docs and Sheets online productivity software. Meanwhile, angry parents displeased over a child’s shopping spree of unrestricted in-app purchases, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company. Google has not responded to the action, which was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit alleges that that 30-minute gap of time after the initial password entry “is designed to enable children to purchase in-game currency without parental permission and without having to enter a password.” Or maybe Google was just trying to help developers take advantage of those adult impulse buys…
Like everyone else, Samsung is getting into the personalized music-service business. Designed for those toting Galaxy devices, the new Milk Music radio service will include 200 ad-free and customizable stations. And while Samsung is touting its exclusive music service, Amazon is said to be ramping up its own game-development efforts. The Daily Telegraph of London and others are reporting that Amazon has its own game console hardware in the works and plans to develop its own games to play on it.
ComiXology continues to be one of the highest-grossing mobile apps out there for its excellent interface and wide selection of downloadable digital comics. CNBC has a report this week about the company’s effect on independent publishers and comics creators.