Weekly Tech Views – March 12, 2016

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

For the week of March 7 – 11, 2016…

It’s Daylight Savings Time again. It’s always tough losing an hour of your weekend; just make sure you sacrifice something unimportant like doing a load of laundry or making dinner for your kids so you have time to savor the Weekly Tech Views.

Space: The Final Bum Steer
Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin plans to take tourists into space in 2018. Six people at a time would take these short trips to experience weightlessness.

Jeff Bezos-owned Amazon has posted a job opening for a senior software development manager of virtual reality.

Yeah, nobody’s going into space.

“Okay, guys, you are really going to enjoy being part of the select group of humans to experience weightlessness in space. It’s going to be thrilling. We’ll be taking off in just a moment, as soon as you all put on these special safety goggles. We’ve found weightlessness can have some negative effects on the exposed human eye.

“What effects? Good question. Well, it seems in 83 percent of cases the eye will pop like a champagne cork from the orbital socket, and, tethered by the optic nerve, will bounce off your face in zero gravity like the world’s slowest game of pabbleball. So, no matter what, DON’T REMOVE THE VIRT–THE SAFETY GOGGLES!”

“He Based The Firm On Me, You Know”
The Supreme Court declined to hear Apple’s appeal of the $450 million verdict against them in an ebook price fixing case, meaning Apple will start paying out $400 million to affected ebook buyers. Certainly, nobody is accusing the Justices of acting in their own self interest, though each is expected to collect a healthy windfall for their John Grisham collections.

Low Sodium Diets Were Less Common Then
Verizon was fined $1.35 million by the FCC for using “supercookies” to identify mobile users and track their activities across the web, enabling Verizon to target advertising. Verizon said, “Really? $1.35 million? You didn’t forget a zero?” Then they shrugged and peeled $1.5 mill off the roll of cash they keep in their pocket and said, “Keep the change.”

More interestingly, did you know that the origin of both the term and concept of “supercookies” dates back to America’s Old West? As you’ve likely seen in Westerns, cowboys would refer to the cook as Cookie. If a cowboy especially enjoyed a particular meal, he would say, “That was super, Cookie.” Well, Cookie, wanting to stay on the guys’ good side, would file away this information, tracking everyone’s preferences, so that he could replicate the results on special occasions like birthdays or winning the weekly long-distance spittoon-filling contest. Of course, on long cattle drives, the menu pretty much came down to subtle variations of beans and dried beef, so sometimes the best Cookie could do to was up the saltiness of a recipe to a cowboy’s preference by making a concerted effort to let more sweat than usual drip from his face into the “stew.”

It Is Better To Look Good…
Ride service Lyft is integrating with Facebook Messenger, but this comes months after rival Uber did the same. In a letter to shareholders, Lyft pointed out that they remain the undisputed industry leader in pink moustache integration.

And Our Cat Gets To Watch Zootopia!
A company called Screening Room wants to make it possible for us to watch first-run movies in our home. After buying the $150 set-top box, current movies would cost $50 each. Expensive, yes, but for a couple and their three kids, might it not be worth ten bucks a pop to not wrangle the gang into the car, find parking, hunt down non-sticky sections of theater floor (accompanied by non-broken seats), and escort little Bennie and Bonnie to the restroom mid-movie? Also, microwave popcorn and a six pack of Faygo instead of theater concessions? You break even right there.

Even with no kids of your own, it could be financially viable. Try this: make one trip to a theater with your wailing four-year-old nephew and explain that you have to bring him in to the 9:30 opening night showing of Captain America: Civil War because you can’t find a babysitter. Watch how fast everyone in line kicks in a few bucks so you can watch at home. You’ll still be watching movies for free in the comfort of your living room when the next Star Wars comes out!

Does It Come With The Tie I Suppose I Have To Wear To Dinner?
The Tovala company is Kickstarting a smart oven that reads the bar code on a prepackaged meal and not only knows whether to bake, broil, steam, or use convection heating, but at what temperature and for how much time. This obviously falls in the category we like to call Technologically Impressive But Unnecessary. I have a microwave oven. Done. Yes, I’ve come across the occasional food where the only cooking instructions were “On the stovetop,” “In the oven,” and “On the grill.” Know how I cooked them? That’s right, “In the microwave.” Name something that can’t be cooked by setting the microwave at the highest heat for two minutes. Not done? Two more minutes. Hot dog comes out a little rubbery? It’s a hot dog. A little stadium mustard and it’s fine. But you go ahead and “bake” or “broil.” That is, have your butler instruct your chef to do so, Your Highness.

No, Of Course They’d Break It In Five Minutes, But Theoretically…?
Toyota’s Project Blaid is developing a device to help blind people get around more easily. The device is worn around the neck and uses cameras to recognize things like stairs, doors, and signs. Haptic feedback guides the wearer to their destination.

This is brilliant for the visually impaired, but can I suggest, as an additional revenue stream, marketing these to college campuses for the beer impaired? The student signs one out from the rack at the bar’s exit by scanning his ID (or, let’s face it, letting an employee scan it–we don’t have all night) and–presto!–he avoids the half dozen occurrences of deciding which of the three wavering doors he’s supposed to go through on the way back to his dorm (and most likely ending up splayed in front of the front door to the dorm where the cute girl from Medieval Lit that he keeps wanting to talk to lives). The around-the-neck design may need to be rethought, however, for drunk college kids with bellies full of beer and cheesy fries. Particularly for the sake of the work/study kid getting minimum wage to go around campus the next day to collect them.

And I’m Getting Close At Yahtzee
AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence program developed by Google’s DeepMind unit, defeated an 18-time Go champion in the first two games of their five game series, stunning experts in both the AI and game worlds. Sure, everyone’s all gaga when a machine beats a human, but when I beat the CD-ROM version of Battleship three straight times? Crickets.

 

Okay, you read it, and it only took five minutes, so I guess you should go ahead and make dinner for your kids. Remember–high heat, two minutes, stadium mustard.

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

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

DTNS 2709 – Alexa, What’s In My Wallet?

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.com
Justin Robert Young, Eric Geller and Jaime Ruiz talk FCC, FBI and lots of other security-minded acronyms. Tom Merritt is on assignment!

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Continue reading DTNS 2709 – Alexa, What’s In My Wallet?

DTNS 2708 – Privacy Badger Don’t Care About Tracking Cookies

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comOpera builds ad blocking into its browser. Justin Young and Tom Merritt fire up the old ad blocking debate and why it’s NOT about blocking ads.

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Continue reading DTNS 2708 – Privacy Badger Don’t Care About Tracking Cookies

DTNS 2707 – Astronaut Prime

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comA machine learning algorithm beat a Go Master and Blue Origin announces plans for manned flights including space tourism. Andrew Mayne and Tom Merritt discuss.

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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 2707 – Astronaut Prime

DTNS 2706 – The Sixth Estate

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comTech companies like Google and Facebook make more money than most countries, have user bases bigger than China, and can often affect your daily life more than your government. Patrick Beja and Tom Merritt discuss whether we should treat these companies like countries.

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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!

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DTNS 2705 – Email Is Where It’s @

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comWith the passing of email developer Ray Tomlinson, the man who elevated the @ sign to the status it holds today, Tom Merritt and Lamarr Wilson discuss why email is still around and what we ned it for.

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Weekly Tech Views – March 5, 2016

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Welcome to this Mike’s-on-vacation version of the Weekly Tech Views. Twenty-five percent shorter means twenty-five percent fewer inaccuracies!

For the week of February 29 – March 4, 2016

Live For Speed? Ewww.
Razer announced the first games for its Open Source VR Steam-compatible development kit. They are Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, Elite: Dangerous, Spermination, and Live for Speed. I will leave it to you to decide which title sounds like the absolute worst idea ever for a virtual reality experience.

How’s Progress On The Robot Eagle Coming?
The new Phantom 4 drone can see and avoid obstacles thanks to four cameras and two ultrasonic sensors. Also, the top speed has increased from 35 to 65mph. This is exciting news for drone enthusiasts, but less so for those eagles in Norway being trained to take down rogue drones. They just got a lot less cocky.

Release The Digital Assistants!
The makers of music app SoundHound have released Hound, a voice-powered digital assistant app that is reportedly faster and smarter than similar assistants. Asked, “Siri, how do you measure up to Hound?” Siri did not make a compelling case by pausing five seconds before answering, “Playing Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog.”

Watch Out, Brazilian Police–You’ve Got An Angry-Face Reaction Emoji Coming
Facebook’s vice president for Latin America–who, incidentally, does not oversee WhatsApp–was arrested in Brazil because Facebook-owned WhatsApp allegedly disobeyed a court order to assist investigators in a drug case involving a WhatsApp user. Finally, the precedent I’ve been waiting for to have Apple CEO Tim Cook put away because the guy at the Genius Bar deleted my Flappy Bird app.

[Update: the Facebook VP was ordered released because his imprisonment was deemed “an extreme and disproportionate measure.” You win this time, Cook.]

Are These Anything Like Those Beer Goggles I’ve Been Hearing About?
Fourteen McDonald’s restaurants in Sweden are selling Happy Goggles, a Happy Meal in which the box converts into VR goggles, and works with a skiing game for your phone. This is in conjunction with the country’s Sportlov holiday, which encourages families to participate in sports, usually skiing. Obviously, McDonald’s hope is that kids will find the VR experience to be so much fun that they will eschew actual skiing and avoid the life-affirming feeling of robust health that might make them rethink the advisability of eating at McDonald’s.

If It Makes You More Comfortable, We Can Still Come Over And Drill Some Holes In Your Wall
AT&T and DirecTV will offer DirecTV over the internet later this year, with no contracts or satellite dish required. Though no prices or content offerings have been announced, it does sound promising, and makes one ask the obvious question, is there a category on ebay for selling the push broom that I duct taped to the end of two other broom handles to clean the snow off my roof-mounted dish?

Dude…
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced the creation of the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, to be headed by Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google parent company Alphabet. Carter said the board would provide advice to the Department of Defense on becoming more innovative in developing technology, but cut short his remarks when reporters insisted on asking if he keeps in touch with the rest of the gang from That ’70s Show.

That’s Fairly Decent Replay Value
Hello Games will be releasing the game No Man’s Sky this June, three years after it was first announced. It is an open-world space exploration game featuring 18 quintillion worlds. That’s 18 with eighteen zeroes after it. To put the number in perspective, it would take 5 billion years to visit each planet, if you checked out one planet per second. Put another way, it nearly equals the number of tears cried on any given episode of The Bachelor.

Why Settle For Just One Source Of Nausea?
Six Flags amusement parks will be providing Samsung Gear VR headsets to riders of some of their roller coasters. Some will find themselves co-piloting jet fighters trying to shoot down invading aliens, while riders of the Superman-themed coasters will encounter the resultant chaos of Lex Luthor’s anti-gravity gun, dodging floating cars and buses. Six Flags is celebrating with their new slogan, The Most Fun You Can Have With The Sweat Of Hundreds Of Previous Riders On Your Face.

 

There we go. That’s all. But a somewhat-reduced Weekly Tech Views is better than none.* Now it’s back to the vacation home stretch, which looks a lot like the rest of the week–slouched on the couch with a plate of mini pizza bagels and bingeing whatever Netflix can throw at us. You should see our vacation photo albums.

 

* This statement has yet to be verified by independent analysis.

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

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

DTNS 2704 – FBI’s Image Issues

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comCould the FBI get into the iPhone 5C without Apple’s help? Darren Kitchen runs through some of the options and their likelihood of success with Tom Merritt. And Len Peralta illustrates the show!

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Continue reading DTNS 2704 – FBI’s Image Issues

DTNS 2703 – Is There an Echo in Here

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.com
Amazon adds two new devices to its Alexa-powered voice-recognition devices. Tom Merritt and Justin Young discuss whether Amazon is slowly, quietly, taking over the smart home.

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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 2703 – Is There an Echo in Here

DTNS 2702 – Everything’s Coming Up Augmented

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comWill we replace smartphones with augmented reality glasses? Tom Merritt and Scott Johnson discuss. Plus the latest on the Apple encryption debate.

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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
To read the show notes in a separate page click here!
Continue reading DTNS 2702 – Everything’s Coming Up Augmented