Tag Archives: o hai NSA

PTJ 237: Days of Wonder

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference opened this week, bringing a ton of announcements and new-product demos to the faithful. Don Donofrio drops by to sort it all out with El Kaiser and JD. Meanwhile, governments fight with the Internet on multiple fronts and a certain Amazon Princess conquers the worldwide box office. All this and more on Episode 237!

Links to Stories in This Week’s Episode

 Apple Stuff

 

PTJ 201 News: Video Killed the Telephone Call

Google released its previously announced Duo video-calling software this week. Like Microsoft’s Skype app and Facebook Messenger, Duo allows cross-platform video calls between Android and iOS phones. Some have called it No-Frills FaceTime — but with an Android version. However, as of now, Duo users cannot use the spiffy new app to connect to other Google communications software like Hangouts. And speaking of Hangouts, Google is dumping the live-streaming version of it, Google+ Hangouts On Air, on September 12. If you want to live-stream your video on a Google product, so on over to YouTube Live.

In other Google news, the company’s Politics blog has been updated with all kinds of links and information for those who want to participate in this November’s US Presidential election. As the post states, “Whether you’re a first-time voter, a resident in a new state, or your state laws have changed since the last time you voted, you can now come to Google for information on how to vote in the upcoming election.”

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Spotify is changing the notion of what a children’s audio category might be with the relaunch of its Kids category. Instead of the usual children’s music jukebox, the service includes playlists that highlight language-development activities and vocabulary-building.

Twitter, like Facebook, is wading deeper into the live streams with its National Football League deal that will have the service showing its first game on September 15th, but as Mike Isaac writes in The New York Times, the bird-themed microblogging service is talking to Apple about making a Twitter app for the Apple TV set-top box. Twitter also announced this week that it was introducing custom stickers that companies can create on their own to promote their brands. Uh, Pepsimoji, anyone?

If you’ve been waiting for that Oculus Rift edition of Minecraft to arrive, your wait is coming to an end. Microsoft announced this week that it had released a free update to its Minecraft Windows 10 Edition Beta that flips on the VR switch for Oculus users. The Redmond giant is teaming up with Intel to create a virtual reality headset that will work with compatible Windows 10 PCs running the Windows Holographic software scheduled for release next year. Get ready to hear the phrase “mixed reality” a lot.

Hackers gonna hack and sometimes, they’re gonna hack each other, as the security firm Sophos has noted. A blog post on the company site details how some cybercriminals are selling malware to other online crooks  — and the merch is actually malware itself.

And TechCrunch has a big story this week about how a hacking group called The Shadow Brokers have raided a staging server and stolen malware possibly connected to the National Security Agency.  Because of course he has, fugitive former NSA employee Edward Snowden has chimed in on Twitter.

LinkedIn has had just about enough of people who use bots to scrape user profiles from their site. The Microsoft-owned site has now filed lawsuits against 100 individual bot wranglers for illegal data harvesting, citing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

And finally, let us pause to consider a Pizza ATM. Yes, a machine that dispenses a fresh, fully cooked pizza whenever you want one. Xavier University in Cincinnati has indeed installed what it claims is America’s first hot pizza vending machine in the lobby of one of its dorms.  America, heck yeah!

PTJ 201: In Pod We Trust

Podcasting as we know it has been around for about a dozen years and is now enjoying something of a boom thanks to popular shows that have caught the listening public’s ear and reignited interest in the medium. So, what’s happening in the pod world these days? Audio producer and educator extraordinaire Jocelyn Gonzales joins El Kaiser and J.D. this week to discuss the state of the art and some of the many popular podcasts she currently produces, including Strings and Things, The MashUp Americans and Inside The New York Times Book ReviewListen for the segment right after El Kaiser and J.D. discuss two of Netflix’s recent streamers and the notable tech news of the week. (Two words: Pizza ATM!)

PTJ 200 News: The Jet Set

Walmart, the original übermegaeverything store before Amazon.com waltzed into town, announced this week that it was going to buy Amazon competitor Jet.com for $3 billion in cash and about $300 million in stock. As both Walmart and analysts have stated, the acquisition of the e-commerce start-up will give Walmart a big boost in its online sales presence and help it keep up with Amazon. Or try to, anyway.

As for Amazon, the company seems to be going ahead with authorized major delivery drone tests in the United Kingdom, even though it’s not officially saying so. Local residents near the college town of Cambridge say they’ve seen unmanned aircraft buzzing around above a 2,000-year-old Roman road in the area, which has distressed historical preservationists and those who like quiet walks in the English countryside. But while Amazon is neither confirming nor denying it’s joyriding drones around Cambridge, the company’s job board says otherwise: A position for Community Affairs, Prime Air, based in Cambridge has been posted. Apply now!

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Facebook makes a lot of its money in serving up ads to its users and the company announced this week that it was going to block ad blockers on the desktop version of its site. While some question the ethics of using ad-blocking software — because after all, that site you’re using for free needs to make money some way — Facebook’s blog post announcing the move acknowledged that “Bad ads are disruptive and a waste of our time.” The post also touted new controls users have to control the type of ads they see on The Social Network.

Speaking of banning things, Iran has outlawed the Pokémon Go game, claiming “security concerns” for children. The ruling comes from Iran’s High Council of Virtual Spaces, not to be confused with the country’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace. Iran is not the first country to take action against the high popular mobile game. A cleric in Saudi Arabia has issued a religious edict against Pokémon Go (that’s actually an update of the country’s original 15-year-old ban on the Pokémon card game), on the grounds that the franchise violates Islamic prohibitions on gambling and also displays forbidden images.

Security researchers from Kaspersky Lab and Symantec say they’ve found malware that’s been hiding for five years on computers and quietly spying on its host. The malware is called Project Sauron and researchers say they’ve found it burrowed into government, military and other high-level computers in Iran, Russia and Rwanda. The malware, which researchers think is sophisticated enough to be a professional state-sponsored job, can log all keystrokes, steal files and create backdoors into the computers it’s infested.

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Delta Airlines got itself into a major mess this week when a power outage in its Atlanta offices knocked its worldwide computer system offline for six hours and disrupted service around the world. Passengers complained Delta was initially slow to inform them that they weren’t going anywhere The president of the company later released a video apology to customers and affected travelers were given fee waivers and $200 vouchers. While hacking came to the mind of many as the possible cause, Delta spokespeople said there was no indication of foul play and that they had a backup system in place, but key network computers did not fail over to the backup. They just failed.

Twitter says it eventually plans to open up its Moments features to all users on the service, even though was originally only available to few select publishing partners. So now everyone can have their Moments. (Admit it, you saw that one coming.)

NBC Universal is getting all hep with the Snapchat and plans to start producing original shows for the service. The Wall Street Journal reported NBCU’s E’! entertainment network is gearing up to debut an exclusive show only on Snapchat called The Rundown and existing NBC stalwarts The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live will create original content for the service as well. And yes, there will be advertising, but maybe some bonus Kate McKinnon.

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Hulu is ditching the free ad-supported variation of its streaming video service in favor of al all-subscription menu. Curiously enough, the demise of the free version of Hulu comes a week after Time Warner announced it’d bought a 10% stake in the company. Hmm.

The Roland music equipment company is acquiring V-Moda, a manufacturer of headphones. A Bluetooth speaker is said to be the first product to come out of the union. Headphones with a built-in drum machine next?

Apple is said to be gearing up for its annual fall Media Hogging event next month, which means the rumor mill has been spinning at Warp 2 all week. Among the whispers, an Apple Watch 2 with better water resistance, new GPS functions and improved performance. And Bloomberg is murmuring about the iPhone 7, saying the next model will have a dual camera system for sharper photos, a Home button with haptic feedback and yes, the dreaded NO traditional 3.5mm headphone jack.

And finally, 25 years ago this month, the world’s first website went online to the public. The site, created by World Wide Web pioneer Time Berners-Lee, arrived on August 6, 1991. It was a short summary of the World Wide Web project with hypertext words that linked to other pages, and it invited other interested parties to collaborate with him. Guess it worked out.

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PTJ 200: Excelsior!

Four years after it rose from the ashes of that other podcast, Pop Tech Jam has reached its 200th episode and we’re ready to party with our friends! Journalist Laura M. Holson and actor/poet/writer Francis Mateo join El Kaiser and J.D. after the news segment this week to discuss the ever-churning evolution of popular culture and consumer technology in the four years since Episode 1 hit the Interwebs. And yes, there might even be a mention of Star Wars

And, as always, a big thanks to the BROS for hosting the party since 2012!

PTJ 185 News: Punt, Pass and Kick

Ten years old and busting some moves on the field: Twitter caught a deal to stream 10 NFL games globally this coming season. The bird-themed microblogging service paid a reported 10 million dollars for the rights to stream these Thursday night gladiator matches for the cord-cutting population. Are you ready for some football — with lots of commentary and trolls?

Amazon has the 8th generation of the Kindle waiting in the wings, but the news didn’t come from the rumor blogs. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos teased the news himself over Twitter this week. Amazon also looks to be taking a piece out of PayPal by extending the reach of its Amazon Payments service. The company has announced its Amazon Payments Partner Program will be available to e-commerce platform providers in several countries..

The Federal Communications Commission is taking a cue from the Food and Drug Administration and has come up with information labels for broadband and mobile service that look just like those black-and-white nutrition labels you see on food.  Although the agency is not making these labels mandatory for service providers, the FCC’s current Net Neutrality rules do require the ISPs to be more transparent in their dealings with consumers.

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WhatsApp announced this week that it’s turned on full end-to-end encryption. The move locks up communications between the service’s billion users tight enough so WhatsApp employees and government watchers can’t peek. Your move, guv’ment.

That expected Sony PlayStation 4 update arrived this week. That’s the update with the remote play function for Windows and Mac and other social features.

Microsoft’s annual Build conference for developers was out in San Francisco last week. The event seemed to please developers, as Microsoft announced programmers could use the Ubuntu Linux BASH shell on Windows and the Xamarin dev tools are now free. Presentations at the Build conference also highlighted intelligent AI apps, bots, digital ink and this year’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which features enhancements to Cortana and other elements of Windows 10. (Not reported at the conference, however, was the trial run of Outlook Premium service.)

NASA is getting in on Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality system. The agency announced a new exhibit called “Destination: Mars” scheduled to open this summer at the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Guests will get a holographic tour of Mars from retired astronaut Buzz Aldrin and explore several sites on the red planet that were reconstructed using real imagery from NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover.

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Umbrella-shaped Google parent-company Alphabet is not endearing itself to some of its customers. Reports around the web say Nest, (the smart-home component of the Alphabet empire), is kicking and bricking a bunch of older devices deliberately. The smart-home devices in question were made by Revolv, That company recently announced in its site that it was shutting down as of May 15 and its app and smart-home hub will no longer work.

Google just pushed out a pretty chunky over-the-air patch for the Android system as part of its April Security Bulletin.  Apple has issued a patch for iOS 9.3 that was intended to correct that little crashing Safari links problem. However, an independent security researcher has posted a video and description of a bug he says the new 9.3.1 patch brings with it. As several sites have pointed out, until a proper patch arrives. the quick fix for now is to turn off Siri from using the phone’s Lock Screen. Cue iOS 9.3.2…

The Starz cable TV channel has joined the stream team. If you want to watch Outlander, Black Sails or any other Starz content on your Android or iOS device without having to get a cable subscription, you can get it for $9 a month a la carte.

ThinkGeek.com had its usual roster of stellar fake April Fools products last week,  including a Star Trek White Noise Machine. Quilted Northern went viral with a video about rustic-weave artisanal toiler paper. The Epic Fail award for 2016, however, goes to Google, for slipping in an animation featuring one of those yellow Minions characters dropping a microphone that unfortunately got into many serious and professional messages send by Gmail used. Google has apologized.

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And finally, two items of note from Department of Making Things Easier to Understand. First up, the MIT Media Lab has created a new site called Data USA, which tries to make public government data on a variety of subject easier to view and mentally process. Second, Facebook announced this week it was using artificial intelligence software to create automatic alternative text that describes the contents of photos for blind and visually impaired users with screen reader software on their iOS devices. The auto alt text is rolling out in English for iOS users first, but more languages and platforms are expected soon. But how will Facebook’s picture describing software software be able to withstand the the “Chihuahua or Muffin” meme?

PTJ 184 News: Never Mind

Well, after all that legal grandstanding and trying to force Apple to build a back door in its mobile operating system, the Justice Department went back to court this week to say: Never mind. Thanks to help from a third-party volunteer hacking specialist, the FBI says it is now rolling through the encrypted data that was harvested from the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist.

So now that the whole incident is over, what was it about? Some argue that corporate compliance is mandatory in this dangerous era of terror. Others, including famed NSA leaker Edward Snowden, have gone on record saying the FBI could have gotten into the phone on its own and the whole thing was about establishing a legal precedent. So, until next time…

Speaking of Apple’s iOS software, the company has acknowledged bugs in its recent 9.3 update. Patch on the way!

instagramInstagram’s previously announced move to using algorithms  in feeds has caused a bit of a panic in the Insta-community, so that’s why you’ve been inundated by people asking you to turn on notifications so that their posts will not get buried. No word on when that change to the system  going live, but Instagram did announce this week that it was increasing the maximum running time of posted video from 15 seconds to 60 seconds.

Twitter celebrated its 10th-anniversary last week and this week, the company’s Periscope app for live-streaming video celebrated its one-year anniversary from its official launch date. Periscope has reportedly been used for 200 million live video broadcasts and not all of them were Game of Thrones or House of Cards bootlegs.

People poking around in Facebook Messenger code say they’ve found evidence that points to the potential to make purchases in retail stores and fund them with Apple Pay, all without leaving the Messenger app. Facebook has made no announcements yet, nor on reports that it’s also working on Snapchat-like self-destructing messages called Secret Conversations. (But, while we’re talking bout Snapchat, that company has just released what it calls Chat 2.0, which lets users easily tap between text, audio and video chat.)

riftIn gaming news, reviews of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset are starting to pop up around the web, including one from Brian X. Chen at The New York Times who called it a well-built hardware system brimming with potential. However, the first wave of apps and software will probably only appeal to hard-core gamers.

Sony is also stepping up the graphics in its console games and said it plans to release an updated version of its PlayStation 4 machine later this year. The current PlayStation 4 model would stick around, but it would add a newer version with enough mojo to handle virtual reality and other visually intense gaming experiences.

Vimeo announced this week that it’s made some updates to its channel on the Roku set-top box. As explained in a blog post on the company site, you can now you can rent or buy films and video series directly from their creators right there on your Roku TV.

Audio-sharing site SoundCloud is also stepping things up with a new subscription service here in the States called SoundCloud Go.

Oracle is not happy with Google over a little matter of copyright and is suing the Big G for use of Java in the Android operating system. Oracle seeking 9.3 billion dollars in damages. Google, for its part, has other things on its mind this week, like its new Fiber Phone service, which brings unlimited and nationwide phone calls to homes with Google Fiber broadband service for $10 a month.

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Yahoo’s financial woes have not gotten any better this year and the company announced it’ll be accepting bids for its web business and Asian assets. The Wall Street Journal reports the company has set an April 11th deadline for preliminary bids from interested buyers. Perhaps Yahoo can throw a few departments up on eBay.

And finally, if you don’t live in the States or you’re too broke to buy one of those handy Amazon Echo speakers that does your bidding when you give it verbal commands, you can build your own with an inexpensive Raspberry Pi barebones computers and a little time. Novaspirit Tech has a demo video:

Lest you think this is an unauthorized adventure, Amazon itself has posted its own instructions on GitHub for getting the hardware working with its Alexa Voice Service. So, if you need a summer project this year when you’re not picking up Yahoo properties at a weekend tag sale, consider the DIY Raspberry Echo.

 

PTJ 182 News: Tales from the Encrypt

What’s up, WhatsApp?  As The New York Times reported last weekend, government officials are said to be privately debating about what to do in their similar ongoing squabble with WhatsApp. The program’s encryption is mucking up the Justice Department’s ability to peek at messages, even though it has a judge’s wiretap order to investigate. In a related story, The Guardian of London reports that Facebook, Google and Snapchat plan to step up their encryption to protect the data of their customers.

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Apple is due to appear in a federal court in Riverside, California, on March 22 to fight the order that started this most recent squabble over privacy vs. security. Perhaps not so incidentally, the company has confirmed its next Apple Event to Reveal New Products to be on March 21st, just as the Apple-watching blogs predicted. But as the legal battles rage, Adam Segal and Alex Grigsby of the Council on Foreign Relations have an essay in The Los Angeles Times that lays out what they call three realistic solutions to prevent further fights over encryption. Will anybody try them out?

The South By Southwest festival has been going on the past week, but some outlets like CNBC are reporting a diminished interest in the interactive side of the event, which could explain the relatively low-key media coverage. Or perhaps the media is just preoccupied with a certain 2016 Presidential election.

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In happier news, Microsoft announced this week that the Xbox One will soon support cross-network gameplay, meaning people using Xbox Live with their Xboxes or Windows 10 hardware could, in theory, be able to frag players using other hardware like the Sony PlayStation 4. Microsoft has also just updated the web version of Skype. and if you’re not paying attention, the company will update your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 computer to Windows 10.

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Adobe’s Experience Design CC is now out in preview for Mac users. The program was specifically created for user-experience designers who make mock-ups for interfaces and whatnot. The preview has that nice price of free.

Amazon has filed a patent that lets people pay by selfie. Smile for the cashier, please.

Google is inviting interested parties to hack its Chromebooks. Few have shown interest in doing so, but to sweeten the pot, they’ve upped the top reward for major bug discovery to $100,000.

Could robots replace salespeople in retail stores? Researchers as Osaka University in Japan have been studying and testing real-life jobs for robots and found that people react  well when the robots are used for things like foreign-language practice, or as retail associates because they don’t nag the human to do more — or buy more .

And finally, speaking of artificial intelligence, Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo computer, which we mentioned a few weeks ago on the show, has defeated the Korean grandmaster Lee Sedol in a best-of-five series of the ancient game of Go. Artificial intelligence has already kicked human butt in chess and on Jeopardy, but how will AI do at Cards Against Humanity?

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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 172 News: Wake-Up Call

Talk about your Rey of light! The seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise opened last Thursday night and went on to make $247.9 million dollars in its first weekend and broke several other records along the way, Many people stayed off the Internet and social media to avoid spoilers until they saw the film, and Google Trends set up a whole page of Star Wars: The Force Awakens-related lists based on the terms people were using in Google Search. The countdown for Rogue One (December 16th, 2016) and Episode VIII (May 26th, 2017) has begun!

Meanwhile, in a galaxy much closer to home, the folks at SpaceX must be breathing a sign of relief after the company was able to launch — and land — a Falcon 9 rocket in Florida this week. The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, delivered 11 low-earth satellites into orbit for the ORBCOMM company and then returned safely and in one piece about 10 minutes later. After previous mishaps and an explosion earlier this year, SpaceX redesigned the Falcon 9 rocket and the company plans to reuse the booster for another mission. (Let’s hope they clean the crew cabin between flights, unlike some domestic airlines around here.)

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Like tarting up images and then sharing them online? Adobe, maker of Photoshop, has a new free iOS app called Adobe Post. It’s described in detail on an Adobe blog, and yes, the company says an Android version is in the works. As Macworld points out, though, you have to share the app with a friend to get rid of an watermark Post puts on your pictures. Also in picture news, Facebook is adding support for the Live Photos created by Apple’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models. While the new feature is slowly rolling out, only users with the iOS version of Facebook’s app will be able to see the mini moving pictures. Oh, well.

It sounds like Microsoft and Google are talking over each other, at least when it comes to the Cortana assistant app on Android devices. In a recent update to the app for the American version, Microsoft has disabled the voice-activated “Hey Cortana” feature apparently due to microphone conflicts with the “OK, Google” voice command. Microsoft also announced this week it was going to crack down on aggressive adware that makes PC users vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. As of March 31st next year, Microsoft plans to yank or block adware that defies its policies.

The Nielsen folks have released their list of the top apps of 2015 as measured by the number of users.  Odds are, you’re probably using one or two of the winning apps.

visitorJuniper Networks, which makes firewall for business enterprise customers, had to issue the advisory last week that so company remotely related to online protection wants to release: the Security Bulletin outlining multiple issues with one of its products.  A short FAQ on the incident. patches and workarounds were also posted. Wired reports that researchers now think the National Security Agency was at least partially responsible, and cryptography expert Matthew Green even has a blog post describing how hackers used an existing back door to make one of their own. Also in government snooping news, Apple is pushing back at a bill in the United Kingdom that seeks to expand Parliament’s investigatory powers and could give the government the power to make Apple decrypt its iMessage service.

The Federal Trade Commission has chased down the Oracle Corporation and charged that the company bamboozled customers about the safety of security updates to its Java software.  Thanks to a legal order, Oracle must provide an uninstall tool so users can pry the old Java crapware off their systems and make sure future updates actually provide the promised security.

hellkittyAnother week, another database leak. And another one that involves information about kids — Hello Kitty, of all things. Several sites have reported on the incident, but the one called The Office of Inadequate Security over at www.databreaches.net and the Salted Hash site lay it down: “Database Leak Exposes the 3.3 Million Hello Kitty Fans.”  The issue was discovered by security researcher Chris Vickery, who has been having a banner year of fail-hunting, and appears to be more of a server misconfiguration thing rather than hacker tracks. Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty, posted a statement on its site saying credit-card info was not at risk and yes, they fixed the problem.

While passwords can be a pain, especially when they’re hacked, Google is experimenting with a new way of logging in via smartphone notification. Yahoo, which has had its own security problems, updated its Yahoo Mail mobile app last fall that also did away with passwords in favor of a push notification to a mobile device. Just don’t lose your phone.

Layoffs are a fact of life in the tech industry and Toshiba is taking a hit now. The company, which claims to have released the world’s first mass-market laptop back in 1985 and affordable models in the 1990s, has been steadily losing ground to rival companies in Asia. The company, which also had a major accounting scandal this summer, said Monday it plans to cut about five percent of its workforce .

rosieThe Consumer Electronics Show is still about three weeks away, but the advance press releases are already starting to trickle out. Cleaning fans take note, LG plans to reveal what it calls “the world’s first augmented reality vacuum cleaner” at CES next month. The company’s HOM-BOT Turbo+ uses three camera sensors to record its surroundings to keep track of where it has already cleaned — and  to transmit a real-time feed to its owner’s smartphone. The human just needs to tap an area of the room displayed on the screen to have the HOM-BOT go over there and clean it. Because the vacuum has motion sensors along with its cameras, it can also be used to keep an eye on the place, but the HOM-BOT doesn’t quite sound like its up to a Terminator level of protection . . . yet.

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