This week El Kaiser shares his ickiest Tech Term yet and J.D. tells us all about Twitter’s new “Troll Patrol”. In the news NASA’s Orion spacecraft completes a successful test flight; the first Coder In Chief; Facebook modifies its search function; Princeton University puts thousands of documents written by Albert Einstein online; Amazon rolls out 4K streams; the FCC wants wireless carriers to ste up efforts to protect consumer data; researchers discover Linux-based malware that’s been active for years; the fallout from cyber-attack on SONY’s networks continues; and the father of the videogame passes away.
The past week has been great for space. Last Friday, NASA’s Orion spacecraft completed a successful test flight, with a launch at Cape Canaveral, orbit around the Earth a few times and splashdown in the Pacific less than five hours later. Just a day later, on Saturday, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft woke up out of its hibernation state just in time for its 2015 mission to observe Pluto, the celestial body many of us still consider to be a planet at the outer edges of our solar system. And lets not forget our old pal Curiosity (left) is still hard at work up on Mars. The geographical data gathered by NASA’s busy little rover over the past 28 months of exploring has helped scientists study and theorize about the lakes and streams that used to exist on the Red Planet in warmer times. (Oh, and a Canadian company wants a little cool Mars action itself – Thoth Technology is calling for a crowdfunding campaign to make, among other things, a “Beaver” rover to represent Canada on Mars.)
Facebook is tinkering once again with the site’s search function. While its Graph Search feature was released almost a year ago, its clunky semantic search engine was too much work for a lot of people. This week, Facebook announced that is was rolling out good old-fashioned keyword search.
Princeton University has put thousands of documents written by Albert Einstein online. The site, called The Digital Einstein Papers, is part of a larger ongoing project called The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. The new site covers the first 44 years of Einstein’s life and features digitized letters, scholarly articles and other material .
In streaming video news, Amazon announced some of its Instant Video streams are now available in ultra high-def 4K. And YouTube has overhauled its app for the Apple TV, bringing predictive search, personalized recommendations and a new visual design to the screen
The Federal Communications Commission continues its rampant news grab as it still contemplates Net Neutrality. The agency has now found time to release a 140-page report on mobile phone theft and has some suggestions for wireless carriers to help protect consumers and their data.
Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have discovered Linux-based malware that’s been active for years and aimed at computers in government, military, education, research and pharmaceutical networks in 45 different countries.
The recent hack of Sony’s network is still spewing fallout. A group calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” or GOP, have dumped a whole lot of confidential Sony data out into the public, including celebrity aliases and contract information, internal emails between Sony employees, personal information about said Sony employees including 47,000 Social Security numbers, and digital copies of several new and unreleased Sony films, including the remake of Annie due in theaters December 19th. According to a message posted on the GitHub code-sharing site, one of the demands was to “stop showing the movie of terrorism,” which is believed to be a reference to an upcoming Seth Rogen-James Franco film called The Interview, which is about a plot to assassinate Kim Jon-Un, the current leader of North Korea. North Korean officials have denied involvement but have referred to it as a “righteous deed.” Sony has hired security consultants to figure out what happened (perhaps, Team America: World Police?). This would almost make for a good videogame, if only the PlayStation network wasn’t getting hacked again.
In happier movie news, there’s a new extension for the Google Chrome browser that gives you an interactive tour of Middle-earth so you can celebrate the opening of the third-and supposedly final movie in the Hollywood “Hobbit” trilogy properly.
And in even happier movie news, the 88-second teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens landed on the Web and in select movie theaters, sending geeks everywhere to analyze the visuals down to every last frame of video. Among the hot topics of discussion — the cross-hilt lightsaber and exterior modifications made to the Millennium Falcon. The lightsaber design seemed to draw the most attention, even drawing in late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert. And with the official teaser comes the parody teasers, including the J.J. Abrams lens-flare edition, the George Lucas version, the Other George Lucas version, the Wes Anderson Adaptation and even an amusing parody on Saturday Night Live, a show that’s been around even longer that the Star Wars franchise itself.
And finally, let us pour one out for Ralph Baer, who died this weekend at the age of 92. Mr. Baer, who was born in Germany and fled the Nazis and was an intelligence officer in the US Army by 1943. In 1966, Mr. Baer wrote out a four-page description for a “game box” designed to let people play sports and other action games on a TV set. His work eventually resulted in the Magnavox Odyssey game system in 1972 and he also invented the electronic Simon game in 1978.
Ralph Baer, father of the videogame, we salute you.
J.D. tells us where we can find the trendiest trends and a tanned, rested and ready Kaiser has confession to make. In the news, tech sites get foolish on the first day of April; Facebook buys Oculus Rift and breaks the heart of millions of gamers; Apple appears to be almost ready to crank out the iPhone 6; the FCC frees up even more radio frequencies; Stephen Colbert catches all kinds of heat; and settlement checks and credits from the e-book pricing case have begun making their way to customers.
Another year, another pile of April Fools’ Day Jokes from tech companies. As usual, general wackiness ensued and even the CERN site played along as it announced a move to Comic Sans as its typeface for official communications. Try as they may, however, nobody is ever going to top the ThinkGeek site for April Fools’ whimsy. The nerd emporium had its usual display of fake products up for April 1st. This year’s crop included Rosetta Stone® for Klingon, a Laser-Guided Tactical Necktie and a Flux Capacitor Car Charger.
Back in the non-prank world, Facebook did actually agree to pay two billion dollars for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset company last week. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post that games are just the start. The move did put virtual reality back in the news, long after everyone stopped talking about Second Life. But Facebook is looking at the future here and it’s not alone. As part of a series on the World Wide Web at 25, the Pew Internet and American Life Project had several big thinkers predict digital life in the year 2025.
Microsoft has updated its Bing search engine to include a Snapshot feature to help flesh out queries. Yahoo continues its move to be more of a media and social media company and less of a search-and- services site. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company is in talks to buy the News Distribution Network video service, along the deal is still unconfirmed at this point.
While we’re touring downtown Rumorville: Reuters and other news organizations are reporting that Apple is gearing up to make parts for the iPhone 6. It’ll be fall before you know it. (And finally in the Not a Rumor column: The Amazon Fire TV box, to be discussed on next week’s show.)
Lawyers for Apple and Samsung picked jurors Monday for their latest patent infringement fight. Opening arguments in the case — Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Company Limited 12-00630 — began Tuesday morning.
In government news, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has mandated that all vehicles less than 10,0000 pounds include review video cameras to cut down on backup-related accidents. That smartphone kill switch law proposed by members of the U.S. Senate a few months back could potentially save consumers $2.6 billion dollars if it’s passed, according to a report from researchers at Creighton University. (The wireless industry has previously spoken out against the bill, saying hackers could wipe people’s phones for fun, although some sources have pointed out that smartphone companies and carriers could lose money on those smartphone insurance policies they sell to customers.) And the Federal Communications Commission voted this week to open up another bunch o’ megahertz for use by Wi-Fi devices on the 5 GHz band.
Online protest, or clicktivism, is back in the news as the OkCupid dating site called out Mozilla’s new CEO Brenden Eich for his past views on same-sex marriage and his donation to California’s 2008 Proposition 8 campaign. Mr. Eich, for his part, put up a post on his personal blog talking about the issue and his devotion to diversity at Mozilla and a company blog reaffirmed its commitment to equality. (OkCupid yanked the Firefox protest screen after a few days. UPDATE: On Thursday, April 3, Eich stepped down as CEO of Mozilla.)
Stephen Colbert, who plays the overstuffed host of a mock political show, also faced a heated campaign on Twitter after the account connected to his show tweeted a message that some found racially offensive. Colbert addressed the controversy with a dream sequence on his show this week and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone appeared to shut down the @ColbertReport account.
Have you ever wondered who looked at your Google+ profile page? If so, you may have noticed Google recently added the number of page views since October 2012 to your profile page. (Oh, and in case you like anniversaries, this week marked the 10th year of Gmail.)
Google is also cracking down on bad app behavior; check out the update to the Google Play Developer Program Policies. The sharing of intellectual properly and copyrighted works is a standard issue these days and will likely be back in the news this weekend when Game of Thrones returns for its fourth season on HBO. A Twitter post last weekend about Dropbox blocking copyrighted material from being shared saw thousands of retweets from people wondering if the online storage site was going through people’s stuff. The short answer? No, but the TechCrunch blog has a good breakdown of how the Dropbox system works.
As mentioned back in January, the Rosetta spacecraft woke up from hibernation and was preparing to trail Comet 67P/Churyumov- Gerasimenko as part of its mission from the European Space Agency. Rosetta has now begun to beam back its first photos of the comet taken from a distance of about three million miles. The pictures should be a little closer to the actual comet by this summer.
And finally, watch your mailboxes. Settlement checks and credits from the e-book pricing case have been rolling out over the past few weeks. Some online retailers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble, are issuing customer credits and have guides on their sites. It may just be a few dollars, but with those low, low ebook prices, surely you can find something good to read.