Tag Archives: Skype

PTJ 191 News: Advancing Torpor

Even more characters on Twitter — and we’re not even talking about the trolls!  Bloomberg is reporting that the bird-themed microblogging service will soon stop counting the characters used by web links and photos in that 140-character limit.

Microsoft has big plans this summer for its Windows 10 Anniversary Upgrade, like more ads for promoted apps on your Start Menu.  And as CNet and others have reported, Microsoft has gotten aggressive with the pop-up notifications now. Windows 7 and 8.1 users who have no plans to upgrade should pay careful attention to what those little nag-ass boxes are saying.

WhatsApp is moving into video-calling, according to those who have seen a recent beta version of the app for Android. At last,  another video calling option to compete with FaceTime, Skype, Google Chat and the other apps out there.

Amazon, the über-mega-everything store already sells thousands of name-brand items, but The Wall Street Journal is talking to sources within the company who claim that Amazon plans to introduce its own house-label products like diapers and beverages.

diapers

AT&T, on the heels of its corporate hookup last year with DirecTV, announced this week that it had acquired Quickplay Media. Not to be confused with Apple’s QuickTime multimedia software or Quick Draw McGraw, the equine sheriff of the animated Old West, QuickPlay Media is a video-streaming platform for the “TV Everywhere” initiative and other over-the-top applications.

Adobe churned out yet more patches for its Flash Player multimedia software last week, but it seems Google has had about enough of the security-addled software. Developers for the company recently laid out plans to disable Flash by default and move to HTML 5 for multimedia playback. When the move happens by the end of the year, embedded Flash files in websites viewed in the Chrome browser won’t run or acknowledge the plug-in; Flash will hang around on some sites like YouTube until the end of 2017.

The Google I/O developer conference kicks off this week in Mountain View, California. Here’s the keynote speech. Google also put out a new app called Spaces this week for “small-scale” sharing.

Have you checked out the YouTube app’s Google Cardboard modeAs of this week, it’s now available on the iOS app as it catches up to  the Android version. The mode converts any YouTube video into a Cardboard-worthy VR experience. (Disney is also after virtual reality fans with its new Disney Movies VR app out on Steam.)

disney

Apple has finally updated its iTunes program for the desktop with an attempt to make navigation for the cluttered app more streamlined and sensible. Apple also pushed out other updates this week, including those for OS X, iOS, watch OS and tvOS for the fourth-generation Apple TV. (Speaking of the Apple TV, BitTorrent has just launched its own Live app there.) Be careful, though: According to screams from around the Twitterverse, however, the iOS update, version 9.3.2, has bricked more than one iPad Pro tablet. The OS X update 10.11.5 for El Capitan is seen primarily as a security fix.

Doom 2016 has come blasting out into stores. One reviewer over at PC World said the new modernized version of the classic first-person shooter succeeds because it knows it’s a big dumb bang-bang game.

doom

Current C, a mobile-payments competitor to Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and similar services, has, shall we say, “suspended its campaign” and laid off about 30 staff members. Current C, which was hacked before it ever got out of the gate, is largely considered to be stranded on the Island of Abandoned Software Projects.

The SoundHound mobile app just got an update that adds a virtual assistant. To use it, just start out saying OK, Hound, and then you can ask it to do things like play music from certain streaming services, add songs to playlists, play YouTube music videos.

For consumers of more genteel entertainment, The Daily Telegraph over in London reports that the BBC and ITV television networks plan to launch a British competitor to Netflix. The working title, of course, is Britflix. Perhaps it will show Downton Abbey.

mags

And finally, NASA has provided funding eight projects that are based on advanced technology, but could help kick the agency’s space exploration efforts into high gear. The development grants were part of Phase II NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program, also known as NIAC. Among this year’s projects: “Advancing Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitats for Human Stasis to Mars,” which would put human passengers in a hibernation-like state for long trips to other planets and “Further Development of Aperture: A Precise Extremely Large Reflective Telescope Using Re-configurable Elements,” for a new type of space telescope that would use a membrane-like primary mirror that could be corrected after deployment. Congratulations to all the grant winners! Thanks for making the future!

PTJ 187 News: Standards & Practices

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.

YouTube is stepping up its virtual-reality game with a couple of new features. As announced on the company blog, YouTube is introducing 360-degree live streaming on the site, which adds on to last year’s support for uploaded 360-videos. YouTube also launched spatial audio for on-demand videos. If you want to hear what all that means, check out the company’s special spatial audio playlist for Android devices.

siriWe’re just about a month away from Google’s annual I/O developer’s conference, and now Apple has finally gotten around to announcing when its own World Wide Developer’s Conference. The first word on the dates for some people, however, did not come from an email announcement, but from the Apple’s Siri virtual assistant, as the 9to5Mac site reported. A press release on Apple’s website confirms it all Apple fans are already murmuring about the show, wondering if OS X will be renamed macOS to fall better in line with iOS, tvOS and watchOS.

Apple didn’t wait for its next big media event to make new hardware announcements, though. This Tuesday, it quietly updated its 12-inch Macbook laptop model with better hardware on the inside.  The laptop is available in a few different processor and storage configurations and comes in four colors now: Gold, Silver, Space Gray and Rose Gold. And in other news, Apple has hired a former vice president of vehicle engineering from Tesla. The company also killed off QuickTime for Windows and the Department of Homeland Security has advised PC users to uninstall it RIGHT AWAY.

In legal news, it appears that Google’s massive book-scanning project that triggered a copyright lawsuit buy an author’s group is in the clear. The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge from the Authors Guild over the legality of the Google Books project, so last year’s lower court ruling from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York stands.

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.

Speaking of software and malicious intentions, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the machine-learning startup company PatternEx have come up with a new system predicts 85 percent of cyber attacks.

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.

Yahoo’s deadline for financial suitors to present themselves has come and gone and Verizon has emerged as the only major player to maintain interest in the sagging company.

murphyMicrosoft introduced Skype video bots a few weeks ago for developers and consumers to interact with and announced this week that the bots are now available for Mac and web users. Some of the stock bots available include Murphy, a bot to find and create images for when questions can’t be answered by words alone and Summarize, a bot designed to give an overview of a web page if you don’t have time to read the whole thing.

As expected, the  Name That Research Ship contest over in the United Kingdom has ended and Boaty McBoatface won in a tidal wave. However, UK Science Minister and total buzzkill Jo Johnson told BBC Radio 5 Live this week that “there is a process now for us to review all of the public’s choices. Many of them were imaginative; some were more suitable than others.” Even if the RSS Boaty McBoatface never sails the seas as a government science ship, the contest did inspire an Australian racehorse owner in Sydney to name one of his geldings Horsey McHorseface and an English rail worker temporarily named the Portsmouth to Waterloo line Trainy McTrainface.

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.

If you’re on a bit of a tight budget, however, you can download a free PDF copy of the original manual from NASA’s website and print it yourself because hey, it’s a taxpayer-funded government agency. And after just staggering through another tax season, we’ll take all the perks we can get.

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.

sfV

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 110: Just Keep it Out of Your Pants

We’re pretty confident Steve Jobs would have advised us not to stuff the bendable iPhone 6 Plus into our pants pockets, much in the same way he helpfully suggested that we should hold our iPhone 4 differently to help alleviate antenna issues.

Also pretty confident  his pants pocket recommendation would go over just as well as his “antennagate” tip did.

This week on the show J.D. shows us where we can go for music lessons online and El Kaiser reviews DUBS “acoustic filters” from Doppler Labs.

In the news, Home Depot’s lax network security; Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba sets IPO record; UPS Stores set to offer 3D printing service; Amazon workers strike in Germany; despite reports of bendy new iPhones, Apple sells millions of them; and NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft enters the orbit of the planet Mars.

Music Videos

Piano lessons (or whatever instrument your parents thought you should play) are something many of may have found a total drag when we were growing up. Some people liked the lessons, though, and regret letting their musical skills lapse. Some people never got to have personalized guidance and have been dreaming for years about picking up an instrument as a new hobby. If you fall into one of these camps but are too busy to find a local teacher, music instruction has gotten decidedly more digital the past few years.

Sure, you can order instructional DVDs or video downloads for your instrument of choice from the Web. If you want more personalized guidance in your musical education, however, consider online lessons with a live teacher through your computer or tablet’s webcam. Thanks to Skype, Google Hangouts and other video-calling software — and websites that help you find a teacher — you can take those weekly lessons and get feedback from a live human without leaving the house.

One of the big sites in the web-lessons space is the Zenph Online Education Network. The company is based out of North Carolina’s Triangle Research Park area and offers to hook you up with teachers for more than 30 different instruments. Piano, guitar, brass, woodwinds, strings and percussion are offered, as well as lessons in songwriting, voice and music theory. Prices per lesson vary by teacher, but $20 for half an hour or $30 for an hour are common, and you can book a free trial.

zoen

ArtistWorks is another site, and it offers live and pre-recorded lessons on both music and art. This site uses a subscription-based model for its pricing plans starting at about $30 a month — $90 for three months. On the ArtistWorks site, you join a “school” — a specific section dedicated to a particular instrument and teacher. The schools have a lesson library, video exchange and personalized feedback. Some of the teachers are very well-known in their fields, like Tony Trischka for banjo, Mike Marshall on mandolin or clarinet lessons with Ricardo Morales of the Philadelphia Orchestra. You can also get free sample lessons.

artistworks

If you’re a parent and looking for an online music teacher for your child (or yourself), Lessonface.com is another site to consider. The portal connects students of all ages to instructors for piano, guitar and most school-band instruments. You find a teacher by filling in a web form with your instrument, cost and schedule preferences. Prices average around $35 for a half-hour lesson. Some, but not all, instructors offer trial lessons if you want to see how the student does with the teacher.

lessonface

Guitar is a very popular instrument for teens, so if you’re narrowing your search to the six-string axe, check out FindaGuitarTeacher.com. The TakeLessons.com site also has personalized guitar instruction, along with bass, ukulele and a few other instruments.

guitar

Those are just some of the many sites for online music instruction. If you just want some general guidance or see how a particular riff or song is reverse-engineered, do a search on YouTube or Vimeo.  And if you have a fairly recent Mac and the yen to learn guitar or piano, that copy of Apple’s free GarageBand program lurking in your Applications folder includes basic lessons in both instruments and links to buy more lessons online.

garageband2

The benefits of music education, especially in younger kids, are pretty well-known at this point. Even if you’re an adult and working full-time, though, setting aside a bit of time each day for musical pursuits can be rewarding in itself with a little bit of acoustic therapy that pushes you in a new direction. And who knows — maybe all those years of playing Rock Band on the game console has actually given you a head start.

PTJ 62: The Swaggiest Swag In All The Land

Despite all the big tech news this week J.D. takes a few minutes to help El Kaiser work up the courage to cut the cable, um, cable. In the news Microsoft buys Nokia’s phone handset division; CBS and Time Warner finally make up; Big announcements at the IFA Berlin show;  Google acquires a smartwatch maker; U.S. retailer Target gets into the streaming video game; another government agency trips through U.S. phone records; and Skype celebrates its 10th birthday.

PTJ 62 News: Berlin Stories

Summer’s over and it’s back to business. The Microsoft announced late on Labor Day evening here in the US that it was buying Nokia’s phone handset division for 7.2 Billion dollars. The company even published a 30-page PDF of a PowerPoint presentation on its site that outlined the strategic rationale for the purchase. It’s very colorful, if you like PowerPoints. (Nokia, when not getting parts of itself bought by Microsoft, also just launched an embedded Internet-linked navigation and infotainment system called Here Auto.)

The IFA Berlin show is up and running this week, and bringing with it plenty of tech announcements. LG Electronics announced a 55-inch OLED television called the LG Gallery that looks like a painting in a frame — except with a 2.2 channel speaker system inside, with most Van Gogh reproductions don’t include. LG has also jumped back into the tablet race with its G Pad, an 8.3-inch Android tablet with an HD display.

Acer also had a few new products to announce, including a 24-inch all-in-one computer with a Nvidia Tegra 3 system-on-a-chip inside that’s running Android Jelly Bean 4.2 and a phone with a 6-inch screen called the Liquid S2. It runs on the 4G data networks and it can also shoot video in ultra high-definition 4K. Acer also has a 10.1-inch Iconia A3 Android tablet coming too. Samsung, Sony and several other companies all had IFA announcements as well this week.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear was also formally announced this week. While we’re checking our watches, Google recently completed the acquisition of smartwatch maker WIMM Labs. WIMM Labs put out its own smartwatch in 2011, but Google itself has not commented on any smartwatch plans of its own. (It did, however, rename the next version of Android after a candy bar.) Amazon, not to be left out of product news, released a new version of the Kindle Paperwhite.

Target is getting ready to introduce its own video-on-demand service called Target Ticket. Maybe you’ll be able to order up a Target Ticket flick on a PlayStation 4 console this fall, as Sony has confirmed its next generation game console will have voice command ability through the Eye camera peripheral.

Another government agency besides the National Security Agency has been tripping through the phone records of Americans. This time, the situation involves drug-fighting federal and local law enforcement officials from The Hemisphere Project using an AT&T database to check out call logs that go back to 1987.

Apple finally confirmed that it’s having a September 10th press event. Photos have been popping up around the Web purporting to show a batch of the lower-cost iPhone 5C models tucked into the same types of clear plastic boxes used by Apple to sell its iPod Touch and iPod Nano media players, so we’ll see if those were real or rumor-driving props designed to make the tech blogs hyperventilate.

Skype has just celebrated its 10th birthday. The little startup accounted for 167 billion minutes of international voice traffic in 2012, much to the traditional telephone companies’ dismay. And speaking of 10-year anniversaries, the Daily Telegraph newspaper over in London has named its “10 Most Annoying Social Media Features of the Past 10 Years.” Go poke yourself, Facebook.

Oh yeah, and CBS and Time Warner finally made up and restored order in the cable universe for several million subscribers. Stand down, Big Bang Theory fans.

CBSvsTWC

Episode 60: Hyperloop Like Nobody’s Watching

On a double-stuffed episode J.D. takes a look at movie apps and Pedro reviews the 2013 version of the Google Nexus 7 Android tablet. In the news, Elon Musk unveils plans for futuristic transport system; Facebook adds restaurant reservations and listings for movies and TV; NBC News goes shopping for user-generated content; Windows 8.1 coming soon; an LG Electronics publicity goes all “WKRP In Cincinnati”; a Bitcoin security flaw threatens Android users; and Apple rumors heat up…yet again.

Episode 60 News: Boo-Dah-Ling!

California traffic can be a bear, and this week Elon Musk showed off the design for his “Hyperloop” transport system, a futuristic solar-powered network of crash-proof capsules that would zip people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in half an hour. Mr. Musk outlined the Hyperloop vision in a blog post and has described the system as a cross between the Concorde supersonic turbojet, rail gun and air-hockey table. Critics have said the price tag is underestimated, the Hyperloop would face serious regularity measures and also be vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attacks. Then again, it’s just an idea — but one that has a lot of people chittering about this new sort of tube travel.

Facebook, which upgraded its mobile app this week, has added restaurant reservations through Open Table and listings for movies and television show pages. The Social Network also just bought Mobile Technologies, a speech interpretation and translation company.

NBC News also went shopping this week and came home with Stringwire. Instead of buying new technology or acquiring another company, though, BlackBerry maker is looking to get bought, or perhaps find a business partner.

Dick Cheney did not want Google Maps to show satellite images of the vice presidential residence when he was living there and now the government of Norway is telling Apple to step off. The Norwegian government recently denied a request from Apple to do a 3D mapping of the capital city of Oslo.

Windows 8.1 is said to be arriving in just a few months. The almost-final beta version of 8.1 includes smaller Live Tiles, built-in tutorials to help confused users, and an integrated Bing-powered search engine. Could be a good time to upgrade — Microsoft will stop patching Windows XP then and security experts are saying it will be hacker heaven next April. (In other Microsoft news, the list of requirements for using the upcoming Xbox One console seems to be getting more reasonable. (If you want people to be watching you, though, Microsoft did release a new version of Skype for the latest iPhone and iPad models that now includes HD video.)

Well, a PR stunt in Seoul, Korea, didn’t turn out as planned for LG Electronics. What LG didn’t count on was hopeful contenders showing up with BB guns, knives and pointed sticks. (But really, who plans for pointed sticks except for Monty Python and Games of Thrones fans?) On a much calmer note, camera sites are leaking that Sony Electronics is working on a Lens Camera attachment for smartphones.

If you like smart tech podcasts, check out “The Digital Human,” a BBC Radio 4 series. The show is hosted by a Jammer friend and Guardian/BBC writer, Aleks Krotoski, and all 20 episodes are now available for your listening pleasure.

podcast

Bitcoin developers are warning of an security flaw with the Android wallet feature that could lead to theft of your digital currency. An upgrade to patch the hole is on the way. And if you liked the idea of the Google Chromecast but can’t get one yet, consider the Cheapcast. Although it’s still in beta, the free Cheapcast app promises to turn your Android phone or tablet into a target screen for streaming.

It must be August because the Apple rumors have started to include mention of a date for the company’s big annual fall announcement. Just a few years ago, the fall date referred to iPods, but with media players pretty much taking a backseat to everything else in the company’s product line these days, it sounds like the iPhone will be the star of this year’s show, which is now rumored for September 10th. Other sources like Bloomberg News are reporting that the next iPad will sport a thinner design, the Mini will get that spiffy Retina display and none of them will be released until the final three months of the year.

And finally, if you’ve been listening to that little tri-tone sound that Apple devices make by default when you get a text message, check out the essay by the creator of that distinctive composition. Former Apple software engineer Kelly Jacklin tells the tale in his essay, “The History of the Boo-Dah-Ling Sound.”  If you drive in California and have an iPhone, you’ve probably heard enough of that Boo-Dah-Ling sound — but its story is quite fascinating.

Episode 45 News: “Now” and Then

We’ve moved into the month of May, so fans of summer movies and Macs are buzzing. Six weeks ahead of Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, the 9to5Mac site claims it has exclusive information about the next release of OS X. The upcoming iOS 7 software is said to be sporting a new look as well — possibly moving to the “flat” design currently favored by Google and Microsoft, where plain backgrounds are accented with bold color buttons devoid of 3D effects like rendered shadows and gradations.

While LG Electronics is moving from flat to curvy with what it calls the world’s first curved OLED screen, the whole “flat” seems to be working for Microsoft, on the mobile front, anyway. According to the firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, the Windows Phone OS grew from 3.7 percent of the US market share at the end of March 2012 up to 5.6 percent the first quarter of 2013. (Maybe those sassy TV ads for Windows Phone are also helping.) But Microsoft is doing more with voice-work than just pumping out handsets — the company now has the make-Skype-calls-directly-from-your-Outlook.com-inbox feature up and running, in the United Kingdom anyway, with more countries on the way.

Google Now, the Big G’s voice-assisted life helper program for mobile devices, arrived this week for iOS as part of an update to the Google Search app. Battery-burn accusations aside, Business Insider and other sites report that Google Now actually seems to be more useful than Apple’s own Siri assistant, while also noting the irony that Google Now doesn’t actually work on a lot of phones running older versions of Google’s own Android system.

graceA new study from North Carolina State University has found that older programmers know more than their younger counterparts about recent software platforms and that the skills and knowledge of the veteran coders improves over time. The full paper is titled “Is Programming Knowledge Related to Age?” (Code wranglers and others who work odd hours might want to know that McDonald’s may be expanding availability of its delicious breakfast meals.)

In security news, the Syrian Electronic Army, which claimed it was behind last week’s hack attack on the Twitter feed of the Associated Press, is also targeting other organizations like the Guardian, National Public Radio and Al Jazeera. The Twitter account of Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA and notable controversial newsmaker himself, was also compromised.

Like the airline industry, the travel search-and-bookings business is getting a little smaller thanks to mergers and acquisitions. As announced last fall, Priceline.com bought the sprightly little Kayak service and last month, Expedia.com bought Trivago, a German hotel search site. As detailed in a story in the New York Times this week, some travel industry analysts don’t think the companies will tamper with the search-engine formula, but the British Office of Fair Trading is taking a closer look.

The Internet — and the Web in particular — have made travel, shopping, cat videos and plenty of other things in life much easier, and it’s time to wish it a happy birthday this week. On April 30, 1993, CERN made the announcement that the World Wide Web would be expanding from its scientific and research origins and become free to anyone out there in the public domain. The CERN site has a short history of the Web, along with a link to a 1993 copy of the first Web site.

And finally, while some people may not have predicted just how popular the World Wide Web would be 20 years later, others are actively campaigning for a pre-emptive international ban on…killer robots. Yes, there is  an official movement known as the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and the group seeks to halt the production of weapons that can attack targets without human intervention. For those who want to know more, a 50-page report released last fall from Human Rights Watch outlines many of the ethical concerns over fully autonomous weapons and the danger to civilians. Here’s hoping the future turns out to be more like The Jetsons and less like The Terminator