WEEKLY TECH VIEWS – Jan 9, 2016

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Surprising nobody, the top New Year’s resolutions for 2016 are 1) getting in shape, 2) getting organized, and 3) reading more bastardized tech news. Showing up today for the Weekly Tech Views is a great first step. Congratulations on your commitment!

You Don’t Often See Accountants Cry Like That
Speaking of New Year’s resolutions, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg made his. In a post to Facebook, he challenged himself “to build a simple artificial intelligence to run my home and help me with my work.” He declined to add the statement prepared by his accountant, which announced that “any bold proclamations made more than thirty days prior to January 1, like, say, pledging, on the day my daughter was born, to give away $44.5 billion of my personal fortune to charity, do not qualify as New Year’s resolutions and are not binding in any other respect. I mean, I’m still gonna to donate to charity, but $44 billion? You can’t hold me to that. I was high on new baby fumes.”

Do You Know How Many F-Bombs That Is?
There is talk that Twitter will be doing away with its 140 character limit, possibly expanding to as many as 10,000 characters. That deafening rustling sound you hear is thousands of customer service reps, tasked with fielding Twitter complaints, hurling resignation letters onto their bosses desks.

The Tweet Awakens
On the plus side, 10,000 characters means it will only take me two or three tweets to fully express my “compare and contrast” theories about BB8 and R2D2.

Yeah, Well, My Wife Keeps Saying I Should Get That Tattoo Anyway
Microsoft’s fitness tracker, the Band 2, can integrate with automaker Volvo’s On Call app, allowing users to remotely start, heat, or lock their vehicle (should that vehicle, of course, be a Volvo). On the fitness side, future updates are expected to record how far you drive, and if the round trip is less than two miles the Band 2 will submit an entry to your workout log reading “Tsk-tsk-tsk.” If the Band’s GPS indicates the trip was to the corner convenience store and you spent time in the potato chip aisle (it’s a really good GPS) the Band 2 will burn I’M NOT WORTHY into your wrist and disintegrate.

It Leaves Their Hands Free For Texting
Faraday Future introduced a concept car featuring, among other things, a helmet that delivers oxygen and water to the driver. Sure, this starts out as a boon to racecar drivers dealing with 120-degree temperatures inside their car, but before you know it, it’s coming standard in the family minivan, the tech has improved to include a food delivery system, and suddenly thousands of people with I’M NOT WORTHY burned into their wrist are getting Red Bull and Cheetos pumped down their throat without the third world inconvenience of having to reach over to the gaping Extended-Family Size snack bag seat-belted on the passenger seat.

Why I Won’t Be Wearing The Microsoft Band 2
In even more fitness tracking news, Fitbit now has a smartwatch, the Blaze, which can automatically recognize the activity you are performing and record it. It also claims battery life of five days, but if it’s dependent on how much activity it has to track, I’ll bet I can go Thanksgiving through Super Bowl Sunday without recharging. Unless the software has to work particularly hard to record the “eating cookies” activity.

New Tech, Same As The Old Tech
One of CES’s biggest surprises was the absence of Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd for the announcement that–at this Mecca for cutting-edge technology–Panasonic and Kodak presented brand new, mind-blowing devices called, respectively, a turntable and a Super-8 video camera!* What times we live in!

Guess It’s Back To Far Cry 2
Oculus started taking preorders for the Oculus Rift VR system, setting a $599 price tag. There is also a package which includes the Rift and an “Oculus-ready” computer for $1499. This does not bode well for my hopes of getting a truly immersive virtual reality experience from the integrated graphics in my six-year-old Compaq laptop.

“Making A Murderer” Sounds Legit
Netflix launched in 130 additional countries, leaving only China, Syria, Crimea, and North Korea on the outside looking in. This, of course, is contrary to reports out of North Korea which insist that not only does Netflix exist there, but that the Supreme Leader invented it and stars in House of Cards, Wet Hot American Summer, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Jong-un.

 

* A turntable is a music playing device, like your phone, but instead of the inconvenience of tapping a button on your phone’s screen to get one of your stored 3,000 songs to play, all you have to do with a turntable is place a large grooved vinyl disc (a record) onto a spindle, start the turntable spinning, then carefully (so as not to scratch the record and ruin it) place a needle on the vinyl’s surface. With expert placement, you can choose any of up to six songs per side! What a turntable lacks in portability (the clothing industry has not yet cracked the manufacturing process necessary to create pockets that will comfortably hold even the smallest of record players), it makes up for in crackle, clicks, and hiss!

Similarly, a Super 8 camera is a video recording device, like your phone, but instead of having to remember to switch your camera app from “photo” to “video,” all you have to do with a Super 8 is insert a film cartridge (read your manual for specific loading instructions), remove the lens cap, manually focus, and pull the trigger to capture up to two-and-a-half minutes of memories per 50-foot roll of film! To view your artistry, simply set up a film developing lab at home, or take the modern no-hassle route and send your film to a developer. You and your friends will be enjoying the results in just a matter of days!**

 

** Odds-on favorite for longest footnote of 2016.

 

And we have kicked off 2016. Welcome to the future! If you are looking for one more resolution (or looking to replace a broken one with something more reasonable), pledging to spread the word about the Weekly Tech Views among your tech-minded friends would certainly be a commendable goal.

 

And for a last look back at 2015 (through poorly-prescribed lenses), why not check out The Internet Is Like A Snowblower (And 200 Other Things I Got Wrong About Tech This Year). Only $2.99, and now with an average Amazon review of 5 stars! Yes, it’s from a total of one review, but let me have this, huh?

OK, I’ll click here, but it better not be 5 stars out of 10.

Snowblower Cover - Original - Final

 

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Weekly Tech Views by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

DTNS 2662 – A Node to Joy

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comThe Dark Web is not just for porn and crime. Darren Kitchen and Tom Merritt discuss non-profit news outlet ProPublica’s launch of a version of their site as a hidden service on Tor.

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Continue reading DTNS 2662 – A Node to Joy

DTNS 2661 – Ads Kill the Messenger

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comFacebook wants to kill text messaging. Do we want it to? Can messaging apps even make money? Justin Young and Tom Merritt discuss. Plus VR for the blind.

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A special thanks to all our supporters–without you, none of this would be possible.

If you are willing to support the show or give as little as 5 cents a day on Patreon. Thank you!

Big thanks to Dan Lueders for the headlines music and Martin Bell for the opening theme!

Big thanks to Mustafa A. from thepolarcat.com for the logo!

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Continue reading DTNS 2661 – Ads Kill the Messenger

DTNS 2660 – Virtual Makeouts

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comIs the Oculus Rift too expensive? Netflix releases for almost the entire planet. CES continues to spill forth announcements and Patrick Norton and Jennie Josephson help Tom Merritt and Scott Johnson make sense of it all.

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A special thanks to all our supporters–without you, none of this would be possible.

If you are willing to support the show or give as little as 5 cents a day on Patreon. Thank you!

Big thanks to Dan Lueders for the headlines music and Martin Bell for the opening theme!

Big thanks to Mustafa A. from thepolarcat.com for the logo!

Thanks to our mods, Kylde, TomGehrke, sebgonz and scottierowland on the subreddit

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Continue reading DTNS 2660 – Virtual Makeouts

DTNS 2659 – Alexa, where are my keys?

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comSupercomputers in cars, cars that talk to Alexa, cars controlled by fitness bands. Tim Stevens cuts through the exhaust to tell Tom Merritt, Patrick Beja and Jennie Josephson what the real scoop on cars at CES 2016 is.

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A special thanks to all our supporters–without you, none of this would be possible.

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Big thanks to Dan Lueders for the headlines music and Martin Bell for the opening theme!

Big thanks to Mustafa A. from thepolarcat.com for the logo!

Thanks to our mods, Kylde, TomGehrke, sebgonz and scottierowland on the subreddit

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Continue reading DTNS 2659 – Alexa, where are my keys?

DTNS 2658 – Sorry, I can’t do that Zuck

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comCES is in full swing and Tom Merritt and Justin Young talk about what’s really worth covering. Plus Mark Zuckerberg’s new year’s challenge is to design an AI to control his life.

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A special thanks to all our supporters–without you, none of this would be possible.

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Big thanks to Dan Lueders for the headlines music and Martin Bell for the opening theme!

Big thanks to Mustafa A. from thepolarcat.com for the logo!

Thanks to our mods, Kylde, TomGehrke, sebgonz and scottierowland on the subreddit

Show Notes
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Continue reading DTNS 2658 – Sorry, I can’t do that Zuck

Weekly Tech Views – 25 – Best of 2015 – Top Ten!

 

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

The Top 10.

Debate raged on at WTVB headquarters–which stories would make the top ten? There were strong opinions on all sides, and I’ll admit things got heated at times–insults were hurled, Christmas gifts rescinded, turkey legs brandished threateningly–but finally a consensus was reached. And though I’m unlikely to get the blood and gravy stains out of my favorite GRISWOLD FAMILY CHRISTMAS sweatshirt, I’m happy with how the list turned out.

The final order of the top ten was determined by a blue ribbon panel comprised of me and a six-pack of Redd’s Wicked Apple Ale.

So here they are, the top Weekly Tech Views stories of 2015. Remember when…?

Number 10 (July 25, 2015)...
We Will Rule The World… Sometime Between One And Five
Breakthrough Listen, a project designed to search for alien life, was announced on July 20, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The big question seems to be if we do find life, should we contact it? While there are very smart people on both sides of the debate, I find myself leaning toward the argument that says HAVE YOU SEEN THE COMMERCIALS FOR PIXELS?! The Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man? If pop culture has taught us anything, it’s that the odds of Independence Day aliens showing up are much greater than those of E.T. dropping by.

But suppose we get a best-case scenario. Say we’re the advanced race. We somehow pick up a stray transmission of their version of I Love Lucy (Ahd Vhrdaqqz Vggzzp). That’s where they are technologically–TV’s infancy. We contact them, and they’re ecstatic to hear from us. “Come visit. Share your technology.” And we go, with the best of intentions. But our nature being what it is, eventually there are a couple of superpowers battling to rule this planet, power and domination their only goals. And no matter which of these evil empires wins, be it Comcast or Time-Warner, this naively innocent planet will be subjected to customer service atrocities that they simply can not endure, lacking the decades of escalating inhumanities that have thickened our skins.

Number 9 (August 22, 2015)…
They’ve Got Their Spotif-Eye on You
Spotify’s new Terms of Service allows the company–which, you may recall, is a music-streaming service–to access your phone’s sensor to determine your GPS coordinates, whether you’re walking, running, or standing still, access your photos and examine your contacts, all of which it may share with their partners. “Wow. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen anything that invasive,” said a proctologists convention.

Number 8 (August 15,2015)…
Racing Drones Look to Nab NASCAR’s “Do You Think He’s Dead?” Fan Base
While the Drone Racing League is getting significant financial support, there is concern over how viewer-friendly the sport can be in person. Realizing that many NASCAR fans show up in hopes of seeing crashes, the DRL fears that unmanned drones may not provide high enough stakes, so when a drone does crash, the pilot on the ground–his or her image projected on a 400-foot Jumbotron–will be beaten around the head and shoulders with a bag of nickels.

Number 7 (September 12, 2015)…
Say, I’ve Been Looking for a New Way to Look Like an Idiot in Public
Nintendo is preparing to release Pokemon Go, an augmented reality game for smartphones that has you chasing the game’s characters in the real world. It looks interesting, but the promotional video’s scene of Pokemon characters running through Times Square is nothing new. If you don’t see a sprinting Pikachu carrying an Elmo head and being chased by a cop (and the rest of Elmo) on a Thursday afternoon, you’re not paying attention.

Number 6 (November 21, 2015)…
Emoji To Your Mother
Oxford Dictionaries named their annual Word of the Year this week, and the winner was… “Face with tears of joy” emoji. Of course, this emoji is not, if you’re going to nitpick, actually in the Oxford Dictionary, nor what uptight purists would technically call a “word,” but there you have it.

Whether or not this is just another flashy publicity stunt from the perpetually attention-seeking dictionary industry, it opens the door to a busy award season for the world’s most popular emoji. With the ridiculous onus removed of having to officially belong to a group in order to be judged the best of it, FWTOJ is now the frontrunner for the Best Actor Oscar and NBA Player of the Month.

Number 5 (August 8, 2015)…
Philadelphia Delinquent Apologizes for Killing Robot: “I Thought It Was Human”
Hitchbot, the hitchhiking robot that traversed Canada via the kindness of passing motorists, had less luck in the U.S., its travels coming to a violent end in Philadelphia, the town known for hundreds of years as The City of Brotherly Throwing of Ice Balls at Santa Claus During Eagles Games, at the hand of local thug Brucie Peterson.

“I was really drunk,” said Mr. Peterson. “I saw this little dude standing on the corner, and I asked if he had a smoke. He ignored me, like he was better’n me, so I beat the crap out of him with the tire iron I carry. But, I swear, if I’d known it wasn’t alive, I wouldn’t have did it. I’m not a monster.”

Number 4 (September 12, 2015)…
Hard Core Star Wars Fans Rebel Against Force Touch
An angry mob of Star Wars fans gathered outside this week’s Apple event to protest the company’s Force Touch feature, claiming it was intentionally deceptive. “They have shown with the Apple Watch that Force Touch does not mean you can control your device with your mind,” said Tommy McCourty, raising and shaking his left arm, where a space black stainless steel Apple Watch rattled against the gold plastic of his C-3PO costume. “And just try to return it because of that. I’m pretty sure…” He turned to face the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, where Apple executives were, after eight hours, guiding the press event toward its halfway point, “…YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO LAUGH AT CUSTOMERS!

“And now they want to claim the iPhone will have Force Touch? Enough is enough.”

Just then, word reached the crowd that Apple was not, in fact, using the term Force Touch for iPhone interaction, but rather 3-D Touch. There was a momentary silence, and then a 250-pound man wearing a Princess Leia slave costume shouted, “We won!” and the air was filled with jubilant droid screams and Wookie bellows.

At last report, the vigilant crusaders were headed for the Glad company to demand the dismissal and possible execution of the creator of the ForceFlex garbage bags, which, it turns out, have to be tied by hand.

Numbers 3a, 3b, and 3c. (With the abundance of material the company provided, Ashley Madison was the Weekly Tech Views MVP, and these three stories ran consecutively on July 25, 2015)…

So You’re Saying What Happens Between Two Consenting Adults Behind The Back Of A Non-Consenting Adult Isn’t Private Anymore?
Earlier this week, Target and Home Depot shook their heads pityingly and said, “At least we aren’t those guys,” crooking their thumbs toward Ashley Madison, an adultery-promoting web site that was hacked this week. The group claiming responsibility for the hack has demanded the site be taken down, threatening, otherwise, to publicize the data they have obtained on the site’s 37 million clients. If they do release the information, we expect to learn that:

1) The most requested username is Phil Landers.

2) The top reasons for joining are a) “He doesn’t understand me,” b) “She’s frigid,” and c) the classic, “Defiling the holy sanctity of my marriage vows is the only thing that makes me feel alive anymore.”

3) Upwards of 60% of member bios include the phrase “I like pina coladas.”

If We Learn Just One Thing…
Aside from the lascivious curiosity a story like this engenders, there are important issues that we need to take pains to understand–the vulnerability of data, the ethicality of “good” hacks–but the most vital takeaway, the one thing we all need to comprehend–and this is especially true for anyone related to me by marriage–is that I had never heard of this site before this week.

When It Rains…
Asked if he had any advice for the Ashley Madison management team, having gone through a serious hacking incident of his own, a Sony Pictures executive whispered, “Ashley Madison was hacked?” He followed up by repeatedly hitting his head on his desk and shouting, “Oh, come on!”

Number 2 (Never officially published in the blog, this comes from the proposal I sent to Tom in June, 2015)…

The Internet Is Like A Snowblower
The company Vivint wants to provide free WiFi to one household in a neighborhood in exchange for allowing the placement of three antennas on their roof to share that WiFi with up to 128 neighbors. The obvious question is… where was this kind of thinking when I bought my snowblower? Pretty sure my Husqvarna serves up to 128 leeches–ha! I mean neighbors–too. The difference is, I didn’t get my snowblower for free. Oh, one Christmas a neighbor gave me a plate of cookies. Great–we’re all square, neighborhood! Everyone has now pitched in equally to cover the $850 piece of machinery I bought and you all use! But I’ll bet the cookies were great! I didn’t actually eat them, despite hardly any visible cat hair. You bragged about your kids helping, and little Tina can’t make a baloney sandwich without licking her fingers a couple dozen times, but hey, it’s the thought that counts. You know what would be another good thought for the kiddies? If they thought about getting their ice skates off the sidewalk before you ran over them with my snowblower. No, you didn’t mention that when you returned it, but I heard it and felt the blade-on-blade violence in my soul.

So I think I’ll let Vivint give the free WiFi to a neighbor. I’ll stream Game of Thrones on a different device in every room of my house, then when my connection gets wonky I’ll just climb up and clomp around on their roof (maybe wearing ice skates) and wiggle the antenna to my heart’s content.

Number 1 —
The New York Times ran a story in which former Amazon employees decried extremely stressful working conditions and unrealistic expectations. Others claimed they knew what they were getting into and the management style made them better workers. Where does the truth lie? I have no idea. But it’s probably not this. (August 22, 2015)…

Amazon: River of Tears?
Based on comments by some former Amazon employees, I envision this typical Tuesday morning:
“Well, Janet, I really hate to do this, but we have to let you go. This is the second time in the last 24 months you’ve been late.”
“But, it was only three minutes. And I was in a bad car accident.”
“Well, that may be so, but you know our philosophy here at Amazon: Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.”
“But I live only fifteen minutes away and still I leave home an hour-and-a-half early to make sure I’m on time every day. It was the accident. It was an Amazon truck that hit me; it wasn’t my fault. The paramedic said I should be in the hospital; he said I broke my leg in two places and there’s a good chance I ‘dented my brain’ but I came to work instead.”

“That’s all well and good, Janet; I’m not saying I don’t believe you–say, could you grab those? I think a few of your teeth landed on the corner of my desk… and here, have a couple more Kleenex, that nosebleed doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon.”
“It’s broken.”
“Yes, I would have guessed, the angle it’s at. Anyway, I’m sure you think you tried your best, but like our twelve-inch plush Talking Yoda–a Lightning Deal today at $16.99, with free two-day shipping for Prime members–would say, ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ So, thanks for coming by; we’ve cleaned out your desk and Security will escort you to your car–or, I guess it’s the bus stop, now, isn’t it? And on your way, could you send Mr. Hibberd in? Guy’s been here sixteen years; you’d think he’d know better than to put a photo of his kid up on his cubicle wall during work time. It’s ironic, too–you’ll find this funny, Janet–he gets fired just minutes after getting the $19.84 bonus for turning you in for being late.”

 

And that brings our slightly skewed view of 2015 tech to a close. I hope you enjoyed these top ten stories as much the second time around (I know, that implies you enjoyed them the first time; welcome to 2016–The Year of Positive Thinking!).

Keeping that positivity in mind, I’m assuming many of you have been too busy during the hectic holiday season with your selfless shopping for others to do the thing you’ve been wanting to do for yourself–grab a copy of all 200+ WTVB stories (plus the complete “audition” issue that was never published) in The Internet is Like a Snowblower (And 200 Other Things I Got Wrong About Tech This Year).

Now that things have calmed down, here’s your chance to get this Amazon-ranked collection of snarky misinformation (“You say ‘Amazon-ranked’ like it’s something special. Isn’t every book on their site ‘Amazon-ranked’? Even if the rank is, like, 1,574,286th?” I get that question a lot. Let me explain it this way: Yes.).

Only $2.99? Heck yes, I want one! I’ll just click here!

Snowblower Cover - Original - Final

Happy New Year, and thanks, as always, for taking time to read these.  I hope you’re back for more in 2016.

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

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Weekly Tech Views Blog by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.