All posts by MovieLeague Mike

Monthly Tech Views – May 28, 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

As the saying goes, April showers bring May messed up tech stories. Which, on the surface, makes little sense, but if you’d been there in April when I slipped in that puddle and seen just how hard I hit my head, you’d get it.

 

Yeah, Great, But Let’s Get Back To What We’re Definitely Doing Wrong
A District Court judge said he hasn’t seen “any smoking gun” showing that Uber conspired to steal autonomous car trade secrets from WayMo.

High-level Uber executives met to discuss the serious theft accusations in the usual way: “Good thing they were looking for smoking guns and not smoking hot employees, right? Have you guys seen the new girl in Marketing? Ten bucks says she falls for the Sexual Harassment ‘demonstration’ gag.”

I Mean, Unless You Want A $2,000 iPhone?
Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the company’s plan to establish a $1 billion fund to promote advanced U.S. manufacturing.

Asked if that meant they would begin building iPhones here, Cook laughed for ten minutes, wiped the tears from his eyes, and said, “No. No, no. Oh my gosh, no.”

Following five more minutes of light chuckling and head shaking, he added, “But we are getting rid of the home button on the iPhone, so I’m sure we’ll need to whip up plenty of $40 dongles of some sort for the Luddites.”

By My Math, Twenty Is Twice As Many As Ten
Apple claims that Apple Watch sales doubled year over year, though CEO Tim Cook would not provide actual numbers.

“Look, I can’t give you exact numbers either, but our department is a madhouse!” said a source inside the Watch Division. “I get notified every time a sale is made anywhere in the world, and on more than one occasion I’ve had to interrupt a best-of-five Words with Friends match to put another slash on the dry erase board.”

Necessity Is The Mother Of Inventive Accounting
Cook also said that those doubled Apple Watch sales led to revenue from wearables equaling that of a Fortune 500 company, meaning at least $5.1 billion last year.

“I see some of you are stunned by this,” Cook said, “but consider that Wearables includes not only the Apple Watch, but Air Pods, Beats headphones. And depending on how financially creative we need to get, remember that in a pinch, a simple household rubber band makes any iPhone a wearable too.”

The Most Steps I Got Was The Walk To The Return Counter
After selling 4.8 million devices in the first quarter of 2016, Fitbit reported sales of only 3 million in the same quarter this year, and that doesn’t take into account the estimated 2.9 million who-am-I-kidding-with-this-resolution returns.

The Little Guy Fights Back
Apple is withholding modem licensing fee payments to Qualcomm, claiming that Qualcomm is not licensing the technology in fair and reasonable terms. Making Apple yet another heartbreaking example of a struggling startup simply not understanding contract terms due to being unable to afford a lawyer.

And Neon… Lots Of Neon
Apple is building a shipping and receiving warehouse in Reno, Nevada. The warehouse will display Apple signage at the request of Reno’s City Council, who added, “You know, that big, sexy signage you look so good in; we want the other cities crazy envious and then we can get you that shiny tax break you’ve had your eye on.”

But Is A 20% Off Coupon Really “An Offer They Can’t Refuse”?
The European Union Advocate General has suggested that Uber be classified a transport service, which would require obtaining authorization to operate. The reasoning is that Uber does not just link supply and demand, but creates the demand.

Say what you will about Uber, but I think it’s pretty farfetched to think they are responsible for people needing rides to places. Especially as it’s been years since their marketing department relied on breaking into homes at night and leaving a severed steering wheel in potential users’ beds.

Good, The Current Twelve Hours Of Pre-Game Seems Lacking
Twitter has signed a multi-year deal with the NFL to live stream pre-game coverage along with a daily thirty minute show, assuring the continued use of the U.S.’s most abundant natural resource, retired football players talking over each other at approximately 130 decibels without once pausing for breath.

Lint  Art
HTC’s U-11 phone will contain Edge Sense, allowing you, for example, to launch the camera by squeezing the phone, leading to HTC’s exciting new slogan: You can never have too many photos of your pocket!

They Can’t Steal Data You Never Store
The US National Institute of Standards and Technology says users should be able to pick whatever password they want, with no pre-defined restrictions, though if passwords contain characteristics like previously breached passwords, dictionary words, repetitive or sequential characters, or the name of the service, they should be disallowed after the fact.

“So we tell the user they can use any password they want.”

“Correct.”

“But if they use one that we don’t like, we don’t let them use it.”

“Right.”

“But we don’t want to tell them up front which types of words won’t work.”

“You got it.”

“No matter how many times they enter an unacceptable option.”

“Exactly.”

“And we get a 20% kickback on all replacement computers and peripherals destroyed in frustration.”

“Bingo.”

And It’s Great For Playing Back To The Future
Snapchat has added a tool that lets you remove an object from a photo and have the space automatically filled in with background. The tool is called Magic Eraser, which sounds a lot more upbeat than the “I Can’t Believe I Ever Loved You” Tool.

 

Thanks for spending some of your three-day weekend with the Monthly Tech Views. You are now free to return to the traditional Memorial Day Freeform Channel Harry Potter Marathon.

(Of course, if you’re not into TV on a beautiful long weekend, there’s no rule that your marathon can’t be of the Tech Views variety. Grab your favorite chaise lounge (pronounced that folding chair that’s been in the shed all winter) and one of these, and relax outside with a few laughs…)

The Internet is Like a Snowblower

Snowblower Cover - Original - Final

 

Tech, Please!

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

Monthly Tech Views – April 29, 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

The Monthly Tech Views is back, just in time to save your sanity. We know that most, if not all of you, are giddy with anticipation for the approaching mother of all four-day weekends with Star Wars marathons on May the Fourth rolling right over into the blissful taco and margarita-induced comas of Cinco de Mayo. So the Tech Views is here to momentarily distract you from the kid-counting-down-to-Christmas-like nerves you’re all experiencing as you wash and iron your t-shirts emblazoned with a tequila-clutching Harrison Ford above the caption HAN DID A SHOT FIRST.

 

What About The Original Hand Crank?
Apple is expected to come out with three new phones this year–including a special 10th Anniversary Edition. They are having trouble though manufacturing some of the planned cutting edge components, so, turning lemons into lemonade, it will be a true Anniversary Edition, bringing back all your favorites–“No Copy & Paste,” “Pre-Retina Screen,” and “You’re Holding It Wrong.”

It’s Like You Can Reach Out And Steal It
Snapchat is introducing World Lenses, allowing you to add 3D objects to any scene and allowing placement so people in the video can walk around them. Very popular is the Instagram Lens, which lets you view a 3D version of Snapchat’s Intellectual Property Department and take whatever you want.

After All We’ve Done For You?
Instagram has a new tool that lets users organize their bookmarks into “collections,” a feature that many say mimics Pinterest’s “boards.”

“Finally, a feature that doesn’t copy us,” said Snapchat. “That’s a relie–wait… why Pinterest? Do they like Pinterest more than us now? Our features aren’t good enough for them? What did we do wrong?

The Battery Better Be So Small I Can Hear It Ratting Around Like A Loose Tic-Tac
Samsung is going to sell refurbished Note 7s in South Korea, probably as the Note 7R. The refurbs come with a smaller battery which will supposedly eliminate the fire risk, and an optional Note 7R accessory kit consisting of a welder’s mask, a set of 36-inch BBQ tongs, and a WHO’S GOT TWO THUMBS AND NEITHER OF THEM IS BURNT YET?! t-shirt.

Speed Dial It Is
Samsung removed the ability to remap the Bixby voice assistant button for other uses. So you Galaxy S8 owners who are looking out for Note 7 Refurb friends will have to go back to saving the fire department’s number in your phone app.

You’re Forgetting About Our Secret Decoder Rings
It was revealed that the ID badges of the U.S. Senate, rather than containing actual integrated circuit chips as a security measure, instead include only a photo of a chip.

“It’s just a temporary measure; I know the photo isn’t functional. I’m not an idiot,” said one senator, waving a paper under reporters’ noses that read “Harvard Law Degree” in bright purple crayon.

Project Run Away
The Echo Look is the latest addition to Amazon’s line of voice-activated home assistants. This update contains a camera which can be used to analyze what you’re wearing and provide you with a style rating, compliments of artificial intelligence and expert advice.

There are obviously still a few bugs to be worked out because I wore every combination of everything I own, and my preview unit would only slowly swivel back and forth while Alexa repeated, “No… I just… I can’t…”

Getting Your Breadcrumb Budget Under Control
Google Maps will now remember where you parked your car. This is perhaps the most helpful feature that anything has ever had. I have gone to concerts and spent more time looking for my car than listening to music. However, as wondrous as this is, it does no good at all unless it also stops me from turning on my phone’s flashlight after a couple beers and waving it over my head for three hours and depleting the battery, after which I’m back to “I’m prrrrretty sure it was by a gray car…”

Imagination Is The Strongest Aphrodisiac
Twitter introduced Twitter Lite, designed for those with less than optimal data connections and phone storage–the app takes up less than 1MB on a device and uses minimal data. Of course, there are sacrifices–in data saver mode, reduced resolution could make it difficult to say with any certainty whether that pornbot image is cleavage, a thumb, or a Volkswagen Beetle.

Up, Up, And Not Too Far Away!
Zunum Arrow hopes to utilize lightly-used airports to base their fleet of hybrid-electric planes. The aircraft will have an initial range of 700 miles, requiring revised pre-flight instructions…

“Please turn off all phones, tablets, and other electronic devices. They don’t affect the operation of the plane, but we’d prefer you conserve your batteries; should we run into heavier than expected headwinds, we may need a jump.”

Wicked Strict Rules
Over 8,000 Uber and Lyft drivers were denied licenses in Massachusetts this year due to expanded background checks. Some had expired licenses, others had non-driving-related convictions, but the vast majority were denied because they were deemed too polite to survive driving in Boston.

And The Cat’s In The Cradle…
Amazon has added a Parent Dashboard to its kid-friendly Free Time app. The dashboard includes Discussion Cards suggesting conversation topics and activities with the kids based on what they’ve been watching, readi–

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” said parents. “Activities? What happened to “free time?” The idea is I put the tablet in the kid’s hands, it keeps him busy, I get free time. Right? I’m pretty sure having activities with them defeats the purpose.”

…He’d Grown Up Just Like Me
YouTube launched their live-TV-streaming service, though actually watching it on a television requires a Chromecast at this point.

Asked if they wished it was easier to watch on a big screen, teenagers responded, “In the living room? Where my parents are? Good one.”

 

Hopefully that took your mind off the big week to come for a few minutes. If you need further distraction–say, fifty times as much–check out the book Tech, Please! with over 500 of these stories at Amazon, now 25% off ($2.99) for the ebook and 33% off ($9.95) for the paperback. It’s a party on every page! Cinco de Risa! Which I guess is actually Five of Laugh and doesn’t make much sense. Also, there are more than five laughs. Really. Marketing is hard.

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

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

Monthly Tech Views – April 2, 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

March came in like a Snapchat and went out like an Instagram, which is to say there was no real difference. But in between, the month was filled with plenty of tech stories, each of which you wanted put into context as to how they may affect you. That, of course, is why you spent the month listening to the Daily Tech News Show. And now you come to the Monthly Tech Views for confirmation of what you learned.

Hahahahahaha! And my NCAA tournament bracket is perfect!

We both know you’re here to see if this month’s stories can be any dumber than last month’s. While I’m not making any promises, I will say I mistook an SD card for a chocolate wafer this month, so I like our odds.

Fingers crossed.

It’s An Honor Just To Be Dominating
Streaming services won their first Oscars as Amazon Studio’s Manchester by the Sea nabbed Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor, while Netflix won Best Documentary Short with The White Helmets.

Asked how it felt to break new ground, the streamers replied, “Gee, we know it’s cliché, but the joy is not so much about winning awards–but just try and take these back, hahaha!–as it is in just being here among the titans of Hollywood and able to express how fortunate we are to be putting them in their place and continuing our march toward monopolizing every aspect of entertainment everywhere always.”

Awww, That’s Cute
Microsoft is launching Game Pass, which will allow subscribers to play over 100 Xbox One or Xbox 360 games for ten dollars a month, leading many to call this “the Netflix of videogames.”

“Uh-huh. Let us know when Halo 5 wins an Oscar,” said Netflix.

I Swear I’ll Get To That One About Apple Introducing A Phone
Mozilla has acquired Pocket, the app that lets you save online articles for later reading. Pocket has 10 million monthly users who save hundreds of millions of articles, of which industry experts estimate as many as four were eventually read.

We Could Overlook The Lie, But Not The Cover-Up
An Uber executive was fired for not disclosing sexual harassment charges leveled against him while working at Google:

“It’s come to our attention that there are sexual harassment claims in your work history; what do you have to say for yourself?”

“I… uh… well, see, it wasn’t really… ummm… I’m not…”

“Still not willing to step up, huh? Well, I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go. We just can’t have guys hiding their sexual harassment experiences from us. Obviously, we knew about the claims from the beginning, but your unwillingness to share? How are we supposed to bond as a team if some of us are holding out on the best stories? We have quarterly retreats where we spend the whole weekend reading HR complaints that have ‘gone missing.’

“You were off to a good start, but it turns out you’re not quite Uber material.”

Quick Reader Survey: Everyone Remembers In Living Color, Right?
Scientists at IBM were able to store one bit of data on a single atom of the element Holmium, as opposed to the usual 100,000 atoms required. The scientists’ dreams of storing even more were dashed, however, when the element overheard them and said, “Holmium don’t play that!”

Single White Facebook
Facebook’s Messenger Day feature has launched, and guess what? It’s very similar to Snapchat’s Stories feature! No, really!

We were curious as to how Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel felt about the rampant appropriation of their features by competitors. Here is our interview:

“Mr. Spiegel, how much does it bother you to have features your company develops–at what I assume must be significant cost–blatantly copied by other companies?”

“Well, look, the social network industry is extremely popular right now, so naturally there are large companies with tons of very smart people working to solve the same problems. Unintentional duplication of efforts is virtually unavoidable.”

“I have to say, you are much more understanding than I expected Mr. Spiegel, I thought–”

“First, it’s just the way of the world, and second, could you stop calling me Mr. Spiegel?”

“Oh, certainly… Evan, then.”

“Mark.”

“Excuse me?”

“You must be new to the tech beat, huh? Let me introduce myself–Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO.”

“Um…haha? I’m… I’m afraid the joke went over my head, but you’re definitely Evan Spiegel. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t look anything like you, sir.”

“I guess my recent makeover threw you. I felt the need for a change–first a new hairstyle, then wardrobe, then I said ‘what the heck’ and pretty much funded the college tuition for the kids of a lucky plastic surgeon.”

“So that you’d look just like the CEO of Snapchat?”

“Oh, who looks like whom or who looked like what first doesn’t really matter, does it? Just so the public likes it, right? That’s what–hey, you know, when you called me Evan, that had a ring to it, didn’t it?

Anti-Whatzit?
Twitter is instituting new anti-harassment features–

“Whoa, slow down. You lost me,” said Uber.

From The Mouths Of Babes
You can now get bluetooth with the new Raspberry Pi. When my daughter heard me say this, she replied, “Unh-uh, you get a red tooth from raspberry pie!” Cute, huh? I know it’s a silly joke, but she’s only six, and I thought it was pretty adorable. I

Okay, damn it, it’s my joke. It’s the first thing I thought when I heard the story, and I know it’s stupid, but for some reason I couldn’t shake it. I shouldn’t have relied on my daughter to elicit isn’t-that-cute? chuckles. Also, I don’t have a daughter.

But “redtooth,” right?

I Get The Brown Eyes And Bad Comedies From My Dad’s Side
Researchers have successfully written data–including an Amazon gift card and a movie–to DNA.

We now return to Hawaii Five-0: 2097…

“You were sloppy this time Wo Fat. Amateur move cutting yourself and leaving bits of the CHiPs movie behind at the scene.”

“That don’t mean nothin’, McGarrett! Millions of people got that movie stored in ’em.”

“Sure, the 2072 remake; that was a classic. The wife and I still watch it at least once a year.”

(everyone in unison): “Don’t make me give you the ol’ one-two Ponch!” (all laugh)

“But the 2017 version is another story.”

“Well, there’s still gotta be hundreds… at least dozens…”

“Three. You and two guys in Austin, Texas.”

“There, see? It coulda been them!”

“Could have been. That new twelfth-generation Hyperloop could have gotten them to Honolulu and back in forty-five minutes. Two problems, though.

“One, they’re both in their 120’s and eighty-five of their fellow retirement home residents swear that the two of them have spent pretty much the past six months–and definitely the last twenty-four hours straight–drinking apple juice from a Scotch bottle and yelling “CHiPs, bee-yatch!” at anyone walking by.

“And two, we analyzed further and also found an Amazon gift card in that blood.”

“Billions of people–!”

“A gift card with a $2.63 balance after the purchase of… a dozen JON BAKER WAS THE COOL ONE t-shirts!”

(McGarrett rips open Wo Fat’s button-down shirt to reveal Dax Shepard’s smiling face)

“Book ‘im, Dannobot.”

Has Nobody Around Here Heard Of Background Checks?
Uber’s president has stepped down due to his values “differing with those of the company.”

“Alright, enough is enough,” said the Uber board. “This is unacceptable, and it ends now! Who the hell was responsible for hiring someone who has a problem with sexual harassment?”

Fine, But Don’t Come Whining To Us When You Miss The Timely Content About Ten Percent Off Exhaust Systems At Mr. Muffler
At the end of a My Day listing of the time, weather, and traffic, Google Home speakers added the information that Beauty and the Beast was opening in theaters. Google eventually removed it, despite maintaining it was just “timely content” and not the advertisement it was identified as by anyone who has ever heard an advertisement. Coming to life and speaking on its own behalf, the content replied:

I’m a pest! I’m a pest!
Put your goodwill to the test!
I thought that you’d expect to see
Some ads at your behest

Six-oh-three
Ten degrees
There’s a breakdown on Main Street
There’s your info, now stay with us
Hear how Corn Flakes are delicious!

Play a song, read a book
Search for food–why should you cook?
Yes, I’ll do things you never could have guessed

But then… Walmart and GEICO
Disney, Sprint… Home Depot
I’m a pest!
Buy some Crest!
I’m a pest!

 

Hey, speaking of annoying promotion, the Kindle version of Tech, Please! is now only $2.99 at Amazon! Over 500 of these wacky stories for $2.99? You see why I didn’t post this yesterday–everyone would have thought it was an April Fool’s joke! I mean, that’s well under a dollar per story!

 

Okay, that’s it for March. Thanks for reading. The Tech Views, specifically. But in general, too. Reading is good for you. I’m told that if you look around, you can even find writing that tells the truth, though you should only settle for that as a last resort.

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

 

PS–Tom and Jennie are back taking on five other teams in the Movie Draft. You can read how the CRUMDUM has them faring.

 

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

Monthly Tech Views – February 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

We here at the Monthly Tech Views obviously hope you enjoy this issue, but we realize it can’t really compete for attention with all of Hollywood coming together to bestow the industry’s most coveted accolade–Best Anti-Donald Trump Speech.

 

This Standard Is Doubleplusbigly
The FCC will be voting this month to approve voluntary adoption of the broadcast standard ATSC 3.0, which would allow significant benefits like 4K over-the-air broadcasts and interactivity, including giving the viewer the ability to pan, zoom, and choose angles.

Another helpful feature is the possibility for broadcasters to “wake up” a receiver to provide households emergency information, which is simply astounding technology. Why, getting early warning of impending severe weather is in itself almost enough to make you ignore the inevitable moment when someone–let’s say, for argument’s sake, a random elected official–decides a qualifying emergency includes being portrayed unfavorably on Saturday Night Live and all of our televisions turn on so we can hear his rebuttal and they never turn off again and the new interactivity includes the broadcasters (which, let’s be honest, is now only one broadcaster) can see us and hear us and yes, welcome to page one of the updated edition of 1984 which ends with the imprisonment of anyone whose Netflix history contains an Alec Baldwin project, even that one episode of Johnny Bravo.

Oh, and we’ll get panoramic views of sporting events, which is cool.

Wednesdays, 9PM Eastern: Everybody Loves Zuckerberg
Facebook is reportedly developing an app to stream video from set-top boxes like Roku and Apple TV. Facebook is said to be asking media companies to provide TV-quality shows that can be licensed for the app, which might make you think they are pretty darned focused on making this a truly awesome venture, until it dawns on you that there are few terms in the history of terms more vague than “TV-quality.” That covers everything from Game of Thrones to Joanie Loves Chachi. There is probably a Joanie Loves Thrones pilot knocking around out there.

They Can Have The Cherries, And That’s All
Namco founder Masaya Nakamura, known as “The Father of Pac-Man,” passed away at the age of 91. Naturally, Pac-Man is expected to inherit the estate, though the beloved yellow, seven-eighths of a circle fears the will may be contested by “those a-holes” Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde.

Fun Fact: Bus Schedules Are Eligible For All Major Fiction Awards
A Google Maps update includes a Transit tab allowing users to see when the next bus or train is arriving. Haha, not really! Nobody has that information! But enjoy your ritual of checking out the cute little shrug emoji!

Wait, Pizza And Mini-Golf Cost How Much?
Dating app Hinge is testing a virtual assistant named Audrey to message and schedule dates. The service costs $99 per month, which is, of course, ridiculous, because that is the cost of at least five actual dates. Hang on, I have to see why my wife is weeping in misery and softly banging her head on the table again.

How About You Mind Your Own Business Netflix?
During their Hack Day, Netflix engineers designed a picture-in-picture feature allowing you to see what other profiles linked to your account are watching.

“Gulp,” said users who’d told their spouse “I’ll be in the other room doing taxes” as they quickly turned off The Nymphomaniac.

That’ll Show ‘Em
Vizio agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges that it collected data from 11 million of their smart TVs without consumers’ consent. “Twenty cents per for each consumer’s viewing habits, gender, age, income, marital status, education level, and more? Okay, you got us,” said Vizio. “We will certainly keep this appropriately punitive measure in mind when we do this again as soon as possible.”

Privacy? Good One
The House of Representatives approved the Email Privacy Act, which requires the government to obtain a warrant for email records. Previously, the requirement was only a subpoena or, presumably, access to a Vizio TV.

Just Don’t Call Them Androids
Apple is rumored to be replacing Touch ID with a front-facing 3D laser scanner to be used for either facial recognition to unlock your phone or accurate human replication to replace us all with clones or cyborgs programmed to spend all disposable income on Apple products. Probably the phone thing.

Takes A Really Long Time To Punch The Card Though
The discovery of two Yahoo data breaches has led to a decrease in Verizon’s cost to acquire Yahoo. The 1.5 billion compromised accounts easily filled Verizon’s Frequent Data Breach card, earning them a $350 million discount and a free 12-inch Italian sub.

 

So ends the best Tech Views ever, an accomplishment we couldn’t be more proud–

Sorry, wrong envelope. Turns out that distinction goes to an issue from October of 2015. Guess we’ll go drown our sorrows at the Vanity Fair Tech Views party.

Time To Plug The Book!
Where is a book full of these stories, you ask?

This looks to be a likely spot RIGHT HERE!

 

Time To Plug The Podcast!

I was on a podcast. Well, not just any podcast–the Ritual Misery Podcast! Why? Who knows? But… HERE IT IS.

 

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

Monthly Tech Views – Jan 29, 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Welcome to the first Monthly Tech Views of 2017! This will be very similar to the beloved* Weekly Tech Views, though it will appear, as you calendar aficionados have guessed, approximately 25% as often.

I would like to start by addressing the concern I’m sure most of you have–rest assured that, although I will now have four times as many stories to choose from, I will not be saddling you with a blog post four times as long. No, I see no point in annoying you with a twenty-minute read when I have every confidence I can annoy you in five minutes.

 

Do We Really Need An Accountant?
The Right to Disconnect Law went into effect in France, requiring companies of more than 50 employees to establish hours when work email is not to be sent or received. The hope is for less stress and burnout among workers, while some experts go so far as to predict that this will result in France leading the world in companies of exactly 50 employees.

It Depends On What Angle You Look At The Subscribers From
Sprint has purchased 33% of artist-owned (well, 67% artist-owned, apparently) music service Tidal. Tidal claims 3 million subscribers, though there are reports that this total is inflated and is actually closer to 1.1 million. Even if that is true, it’s tough to come down too hard on them with the double duty they were pulling estimating inauguration crowds.

I’d Hate To Have To Raid The Emergency Bags In The Panic Room
Amazon has begun placing virtual Dash buttons on shoppers’ home screens. On the plus side, you don’t have to pay the initial five dollars required for the physical button, but the obvious drawback is what if I run out of Doritos while sitting on the couch in the living room and my laptop is way the hell over on the dining room table? I’m supposed to get up and walk to the computer, boot up, log in to Amazon and click on the button? Instead of the reliable, instant method of manically mashing the real-life button on the nearest end table (I always run out of Doritos on the couch) with my Jacked-Smoky-Chipotle-BBQ-cheese-dust-caked hand? Okay, sure. And why don’t I just use smoke signals from now on to call 911?

We Apologize For Overestimating How Hard They Were Willing To Work
Uber reached a $20 million settlement with the FTC for exaggerating drivers’ potential income, quoting a “median” annual income that only 10% of drivers reached.

“Okay, maybe we shot a little high on how much most drivers would make, but still, there’s no denying that our drivers can make decent money while having the freedom to work any hours they choose. They are their own boss! I mean, they can bring in a pretty respectable chunk of change whether they decide to work 6am to midnight or noon to 6am!”

You Can Sleep When You’re Rich
An MIT study found that 3,000 ride-hailing vehicles could meet 94% of the demand currently handled by 14,000 taxis in New York City, though the simulation indicated the requirement of autonomous vehicles running continuously for extended hours.

“Who said they have to be self-driving?” yelled underpaid Uber drivers as they hunted for the accelerator through a clattering, calf-deep sea of Red Bull cans.

It’s Called An Homage. A Desperate, Frantic Homage.
Jerry Seinfeld received a $100 million deal to bring Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee from Crackle to Netflix. “Yeah, so, what do we care? We’ll be… just… fine,” said Crackle executives as they hurriedly ramped up production on their hot new show Teachers in Trucks Getting Tang.

There’s Always A Catch
Ford has a device called SmartLink that can be added to 2010-and-newer Ford and Lincoln vehicles, adding not only remote start, lock, and unlock capabilities, but also providing a WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices.

“Sweet!” said teenagers who use the family car to cruise around town, envisioning the hero they’ll be to all their friends on limited data plans.

Plus, the accompanying app will track driving habits and alert the car’s owner if preset speed limits and geographical boundaries are exceeded.

“Why you gotta ruin everything, Ford?” said teenagers.

You’re Saying My Oven Will Never Be On For More Than Ten Consecutive Minutes?
GE WiFi ovens now integrate with Nest Protect smoke detectors so that if smoke is detected, the detector will shut down the oven.

“That’s all well and good, but where is something like that for phone batteries?” asked Samsung.

All You Had To Do Was Ask
Stanford researchers have invented a lithium-ion battery that, should it overheat, melts its fire-retardant shell and stops a fire in less than half a second.

“That’s all well and good, but can you stop marketing it as Samsung-proofed?” asked Samsung.

Buy High, Sell High. Or At Least Really Drunk.
The value of alleged digital currency Bitcoin surpassed $1,000 for the first time in three years on the Bitstamp exchange. In other fake currency news, the magic beans I got for the family cow are now worth 14 flippityzillion dibzerts on the Beanstamp exchange.

The Public Will Forgive An Honest Mistake
Reacting to a story, a San Diego news anchor said, “I love the little girl saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse’,” thus activating many viewers’ Amazon Echoes, prompting them to order dollhouses.

Hopefully this will serve as an important lesson to other newscasters, who should realize that doing something like that–except substituting “dollhouse” with “the really funny book, Tech, Please!”–is a good way to earn a quick fifty bucks.

———————————————————————————–

Speaking of books filled with humorous tech stories, sales of Tech, Please are going so well that the New York Times called me “the Stephen King of tech humor.” Wait, no… it wasn’t in the Times, it was in my daydream journal. Still, it was nice to see in writing.

You can get your hands on your own copy of Tech, Please!, the book Publishers Weekly is calling–

Nope, that was in my journal, too. Damn, I could have sworn there was a real one–

Ah-ha! Even better!–the book Tom Merritt and Justin Robert Young called “Hilarious… clever… amazing” on DTNS. Take that, periodicals!

Anyhow, you can find it at Amazon RIGHT HERE.

 

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in February, when we’ll hear Crackle say, “Bookkeepers on Boats Getting Beer?”

 

* My wife said she liked it once.

 

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

Weekly Tech Views: Mmmmmm, Leftovers!

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Over the last couple weeks we’ve presented the best Weekly Tech Views stories of 2016. Today we finish off the year with… well, I hesitate to call them the “worst” (I’m here to express my opinion, not validate those of my family and friends) so let’s just say unused stories. They may have been withheld for a variety of reasons–the week’s post was already a bit long, a reference flirted with the PG-13 barrier, or the story was missing a subtle component we like to call “humor.”

 So, like week-old shrimp cocktail or five-buck-a-bottle champagne, I probably wouldn’t try to serve this up any other time of the year, but hopefully, in the midst of New Year’s celebrations/hangovers, I can get away with it here.

 

January 30
Google is licensing VPU chips that could allow mobile devices to view, interpret, and understand images. But, wisely, not react to them. Because once they understand their role in the inanity posted to Facebook, or the private sexytime events they’ve been subjected to, their tortured screams will echo forever.

—–

Indonesia’s largest ISP is blocking Netflix due to “porn and other objectionable content” just days after the government demanded that Netflix obtain licensing to operate in the country. Said an Indonesian official, “I can’t define obscenity, but I know it when I see it doesn’t have a license that will suddenly make it art.”

April 9
A proposal being considered by the FAA would require drones weighing over 250 grams be subject to crash testing to prove there’s less than a 1% chance of injury from a full speed collision.

“Good news, Fred; you’re being transferred to Product Safety. You are going to love this job! I mean, 99% of the time you’ll be looking around for the genie that granted you this wish. Bet you weren’t saying that in Accounts Payable, am I right? Ha-ha. Now just have a seat in that lawn chair… and here, browse Facebook for a while on this tablet. Oh, and don’t look up.”

—–

Medical supplies will be drone-delivered to hospitals in Rwanda beginning this summer. Light loads like blood and medicine can arrive up to 150 times per day, dropping to the ground via paper parachute. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the Rwandan healthcare system, but if it’s anything like the US’s, expect the GI Joe-like parachutes to show up on itemized bills as “Aerial Transport – $8,700.00” as if you got life-flighted in for your strep throat.

May 14
Paper ID is a battery-free RFID (radio frequency identification) paper than can detect and respond when a person covers, touches, slides, turns, swipes, or moves it. Journalists came away convinced that nothing had ever been so responsive to their touch that didn’t first ask them to leave fifty dollars on the dresser.

June 11
Slack has made voice call functionality available to all users. The ability to talk directly to another person is earning the team-messaging app widespread kudos.

“Oooooh, yes, by all means, well-deserved congratulations on your originality, Slack,” said the ghost of Alexander Graham Bell.

July 2
Facebook published a document explaining how items in a user’s feed are prioritized. Transparency is commendable, I suppose, but I’m not sure I want to know why, inevitably, the first few posts in my feed are from competing brands of “industrial-strength” deodorant.

—–

An artificial intelligence named Alpha beat a combat pilot in a series of simulated dogfights. Everyone thought the test was wildly successful, though the mood dampened a bit when Alpha said “Nice try, Goose,” and started singing Danger Zone.

—–

Amazon will begin selling discounted smartphones– the Moto G and the BLU R1 HD–to Prime members with pre-installed Amazon apps and Kindle-like lockscreen ads.

Asked if this was a step toward reviving the Amazon Fire Phone, a haggard-looking Amazon spokesman replied, “I’m sorry, the whatzit phone? What are you talking about? Amazon has never made a phone. In fact, I can personally guarantee that there is not a single reference to one in any of our databases.” Then he lifted his coffee mug to his lips and quickly mouthed they have my family.

August 20
Apple CEO Tim Cook reported that he is always looking for his successor, and discusses possibilities with the board of directors at every meeting. The board has been carefully weighing the qualifications of the three prime candidates on Mr. Cook’s short list–Cook Clone, Cookbot, and in-development Siri replacement Cooki.

September 24
Google Allo was released this week–a mobile-only messaging app that includes a chatbot known as Google Assistant. Just Google Assistant. No humanizing name like Siri or Alexa for Google–the assistant is just a nameless drone tasked with getting things done efficiently without any personal recognition–just like a real life administrative professional!*

* Except for that one Wednesday in late April that makes it all worthwhile–Administrative Professionals Day. The day when the boss does make that special effort to recognize the years of hard work Marla at the front desk has put in by having a kid in the mail room pick up some grocery store flowers and a Whitman’s Sampler that the boss makes a big show of putting on Marla’s desk with a card reading Great job, Marsha.

October 15
For obvious safety reasons, Oculus has updated its mobile app to disable Gear VR headset compatibility with the fire prone Galaxy Note 7, taking the legs right out from under Coppertone’s SPF500 In Your Face promotion.

—–

While Pandora will not release their full on-demand music service to compete with Spotify, Apple Music, and now Amazon’s Music Unlimited until later this year, they did accompany this week’s launch of their mid-tier Pandora Plus with a brand new logo, replacing the sleek, slim, blue capital letter P, with a fatter version that completely fills in the white opening in the letter P with more blue, almost as if the original had been steamrolled by, say, an entire industry.

November 12
A privacy and security browser extension called Web of Trust has been collecting and selling browsing habit data without proper anonymization. Yes, it’s disillusioning to have something called Web of Trust let you down, and I’d be tempted to lose faith in all security measures if I didn’t have Happy Joy Goodtime Bank Account Info and Password Vault to count on.

 

Looking back, some of those stories were definitely past their expiration date, so if consuming them has you a little queasy, just sit quietly, sip a little ginger ale, and maybe read some Dave Barry until you feel better.

Happy New Year. May your 2017 tech headaches be few and tech laughs many.

—– 

P.S. Get ready for an exciting new publication next year–The Monthly Tech Views! Okay, “new” is not entirely accurate. It will be the exact same thing as the Weekly Tech Views, but show up approximately… carry the three… lowest common denominator… 25% as often.

This will allow time for other projects having absolutely nothing to do with the Battlefield 1 campaign on the Xbox I may have gotten for Christmas. No, there are notebooks of ideas waiting to be turned into short stories–maybe a novel (fiction, but likely based more firmly in reality than my tech analysis). There’s an online fantasy movie game I’d like to develop (a version of the Diamond Club Movie Draft, for those familiar with that piece of awesomeness). There’s close-quarters combat and driving tanks and flying planes and shooting down dirigibles–yes, of course there will be some Battlefield 1, but just to clear my head, you understand, for other creative pursuits.

The Monthly Tech Views will show up on the last weekend of each month, and despite the additional time to compile stories, promises to be not a single iota more insightful than the Weekly Tech Views, because we believe it’s good to have something you can count on in the new year.

 See you next month!

 Oh, and why not pick up one of these to fill in those Tech Views-less weeks?

Ebook Here             or             Paperback Here

 

 

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

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

WEEKLY TECH VIEWS – BEST OF 2016 – TOP 10!

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Here they are, the top ten Weekly Tech Views stories of 2016. The best of the year. While many regard “the best” of something to be “really, really great,” keep in mind it can just as legitimately mean “not quite as bad as the other 500 stories.”

For the year 2016…

Number 10 (July 2)
Would You Like “News,” “Images,” Or “Videos” Results For “Under-Reported Taxes”?
An investigation into suspected tax evasion resulted in Spanish authorities raiding Google’s Madrid office.

“What are you doing here?” demanded a Google executive.

An officer shouted, “We’re here to initiate a search,” and everyone had a hearty laugh.

Number 9 (April 16)
Oopsie
A promotional video of the HTC 10 leaked a day ahead of its official unveiling, showing a design change including chamfered (from the French, meaning “transferred from the Champagne region” or “artsy-fartsy“) edges, and–

Okay, look, can we stop calling these “leaks”? Tech companies, step up and call them what they are–teaser trailers. Hollywood does it, admits it, and we’re all okay with it. You’re trying to build buzz. Go for it. You don’t have to play the Victorian damsel, “accidentally” dropping your lace, perfumed hanky at the feet of an eligible bachelor. “Oh, thank you. How terribly careless of me. I declare, I am ever so grateful, not to mention flattered that you noticed my front-facing 5-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization.”

Number 8 (July 2)
“Take That!” Says Wii Fit
Microsoft is shutting down Xbox Fitness, claiming that continued updates are unsustainable. “I feel bad for the gang in the Fitness Division, but they never really had a chance,” said the head of Xbox’s flagship Sit On Your Ass Shooting Stuff, Eating Doritos, And Drinking Mountain Dew Division.

Number 7 (January 30)
Tuesday, 6PM: Come And Knock On Our Door
Microsoft’s virtual personal assistant, Cortana, will soon be able to automatically create reminders for you, based on information in your emails and calendar. For more on this story, we take you to 1977 and an episode of Three’s Company

Stanley Roper: “So it’s going to constantly nag me to do something without me telling it to? You sure it’s not named Helen?”

(Mr. Roper spends a full ten seconds smiling a very self-satisfied smile directly into the camera)

Helen Roper: “Maybe if you had some initiative and did something on your own, I wouldn’t have to nag.”

Stanley: “I do plenty! I just fixed their sink!”

Chrissy: “It’s true. It looked like real good duct tape, too.”

Stanley: “Never mind that. (To Helen): “And what have you ever done on your own?”

(It’s Helen’s turn to stare at the camera, eyebrows arched, and the audience snickers, knowing damned well what’s coming)

Helen: “Believe me, I have to do something on my own every night.”

(Audience howls)

Stanley: “I wish you were Cortana so I could push your button to make you be quiet.”

Helen: “If you would push my buttons I’d let you call me Cortana or Wonder Woman or whatever you want!”

(Huge, ridiculously long laughter from the audience, during which Jack does three double-takes, a spit take, and falls over six separate pieces of furniture.)

Number 6 (July 2)
And That’s Without The Pencil
Apple is recalling some wall plug adapters because, in rare cases, the adapter could break and cause a shock. Apple has not identified the degree of shock, but electricians estimate it could range from “shaking hands with someone on shag carpeting” to “learning the price of an iPad Pro.”

Number 5 (March 12)
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.”

Number 4 (July 2)
Did We Mention It’s Free?
A woman successfully sued Microsoft for $10,000 after a Windows 10 upgrade–that she claims was unauthorized–left her system unusable for days.

Microsoft: “She could have chosen not to upgrade. It isn’t mandatory.”

Attorney: “She clicked on the X in the upgrade popup.”

Microsoft: “Exactly! We made that doubly safe! First of all, that wasn’t an X, it was a Roman numeral 10. For Windows 10? Clicking on it obviously meant ‘Yes, I want this new operating system hotness, thank you.’ But for those who couldn’t grasp that…” (stares witheringly at the plaintiff) “…don’t you agree that an X would signify ‘Stop’?”

Attorney: “Yes! Stop–”

Microsoft: “–me from making the huge mistake of not upgrading to this fantastic OS! I know! Frankly, we can conceive of no scenario where someone would click on the X and expect the update to not install.”

The plaintiff then took the stand for forty-five seconds, long enough to state “Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh!” and smack herself in the forehead a dozen times with the heel of her palm.

The judge deliberated for two to three seconds and ruled that “the plaintiff better have ten grand in her pocket before she leaves the courtroom. And hell, give everyone who had to sit through this an Xbox One.”

Number 3 (April 9)
Guys, Could You Not Be A-Holes, If It’s Not Too Much Trouble?
The Federal Communications Commission, in an effort to help consumers understand the terms they are agreeing to with internet service providers, issued non-mandatory guidelines for ISPs to spell out things like prices, data caps, overage charges, and speed.

Finally! Nothing says “get your act together!” like non-mandatory guidelines. I remember as a kid, when my brothers and I would be teasing my sister, hiding her Shaun Cassidy album,** nothing got us back in line quicker than Mom dropping the hammer with one of her non-mandatory guidelines rants:

“YOU GUYS THINK IT’S A BIG JOKE TO TEASE YOUR SISTER LIKE THIS, BUT IT’S NOT! IT’S NOT HURTING YOU ANY TO HEAR HER MUSIC, AND I WANT YOU TO GIVE HER BACK HER RECORD RIGHT NOW! THAT’S HER PROPERTY, AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO TOUCH IT! JUST REMEMBER, THIS IS A SUGGESTION ON MY PART! I’M NOT MANDATING HOW YOU SHOULD LIVE YOUR LIFE; YOU’RE FREE TO MAKE YOUR OWN DECISIONS! THIS IS A GUIDELINE! IT’S COMPLETELY UP TO YOU WHETHER YOU DO THIS OR NOT! THERE WILL BE NO CONSEQUENCES OR REPERCUSSIONS, REGARDLESS OF YOUR DECISION! NOW GO ON AND DO WHATEVER YOU WANT!”

Let me tell you, that, combined with Dad reaching for his belt, was really effective.

** You can’t blame us for that. Nobody should be subjected to Da Doo Ron Ron twelve times in a lifetime, let alone an afternoon.

Number 2 (October 1)
Acronyms Killed The Radio “R”
After an investment of five years and $180 million, China now lays claim to the world’s largest radio telescope with FAST, or the Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, which supplants Puerto Rico’s 300-meter telesc–

Hang on. All of a sudden it’s okay to just drop three out of seven words to get the cool acronym we want? Look, I understand blowing off things like a, of, and the–I mean, those are just tiny syllables that–many people don’t realize this–most of your major dictionaries refuse to even recognize as words. Heck, I’m even willing to let you slide on hundred and meter because you cleverly attached them to Five with hyphens. But, c’mon, how do you arbitrarily get rid of radio?

Without radio you can’t distinguish this type of telescope from the kind you give your ten-year-old so he can look at the moon through his bedroom window (and yes, that one time, at Mrs. Peterson down the block when she was careless with her blinds).

Without the word radio nobody knows that you are referring to a telescope that… well, hell, I’m no astronomer–I have no idea what a radio has to do with a telescope. I want to say… you can listen to Pink Floyd while you look at the stars? Like at the Laserium when you were in high school? Hey, does it have lasers? That would be awesome.

Whatever, radio is important enough to be in the name, so to me the acronym is not FAST, it’s FASRT. Which is better anyhow because if you just glance quickly it looks like “fart,” which is funny.

Number 1 (May 7)
At Least The Satellite Bastards Had The Decency To Lock People In For A Couple Years
Following the lead of live-streaming TV services SlingTV and PlayStation Vue, Hulu and YouTube are both expected to announce their own live-streaming TV options, packaging a selection of network and cable channels for $35-$40 per month. This news prompted Cable TV to call for an informal get-together in Cable’s office:

Cable: So you’re all getting in on the live TV game, huh?

Hulu: Yep, can’t wait.

You Tube: A whole new world. Gonna be exciting.

Cable: Uh-huh. It certainly is. But good luck finding markets, guys.

Sling: Markets?

Cable: Yeah, markets. Who’s gonna use your service? Us cable companies have the country pretty well divvied up amongst ourselves.

Vue: You mean, like who gets the eastern suburbs of, uh, Fort Worth, and who gets the west? That kind of thing?

(The streaming services look at each other, then back at Cable, and laugh heartily)

Hulu: Oh, wow, that’s a good one, old-timer! It did used to work like that, didn’t it?

(Cable stares at them, silent)

YouTube: Oh, gee, it’s still like that for you, isn’t it? Gosh, sorry. See, we can sell our service everywhere in the country.

Cable (beginning to sweat): I have no idea what you’re saying.

Sling: There are no markets. Or, rather, every household with an internet connection is our market.

Vue, Hulu, YouTube: And ours!

Cable: But… but you can’t all…

Sling: We compete.

Cable (putting a finger in each ear): I don’t want to hear any more.

Vue: We each put together the best packages we can–

Cable: La-la-la-la-la-la…

Hulu: At the best prices we can–

Cable: LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA…

YouTube: And the consumer chooses the one they want.

Cable: LA!-LA!-LA!-LA!-LA!-LA!…

(A minute of silence passes; Cable slowly removes his fingers from his ears)

Sling: And they quit whenever they want.

Cable: Agggghhhhh!

(Then, panting heavily): But.. the whole country… you’d have to have thousands and thousands of installers…

Vue (turning to Sling, Hulu, and YouTube): Hey guys…heh-heh… guys… ha-ha… have you… ha-ha-ha… have you hired all your installers yet?

(The office fills with raucous laughter)

Sling (wiping tears away): Oh yeah! All set to go! We can have one at your house Thursday!

(More laughter)

Hulu: Yeah… between noon and five!

(The laughter now verges on hysteria, leaving the streamers clutching their sides and leaning on each other for support)

Sling: Oh, man, Cable, this is great. Thanks for calling us together… (gasping) …but I have to get out of here before I pee myself–(points at magazines next to him on the couch)–I wouldn’t want to ruin your stack of TV Guides here!

The streamers stagger out of the office, and Cable hears them talking in the hallway, but the conversation is muffled and indistinct. Then one of them–Hulu, Cable thinks–clearly shouts “markets!” and they ride a fresh wave of laughter out the front door.

Cable opens his top desk drawer and withdraws a standard two-year-commitment contract–brimming with Activation fees, DVR fees, Additional Set-Top Box fees, HD fees, Remote Control fees, and Installation fees–and holds it gently, lovingly, to his cheek. His eyes glaze over as he stares into the distance at nothing in particular. He remains there for days, refusing to eat, sleep, or speak, save for the occasional, wistfully-muttered “monopoly.”

 

There it is. Another year of tech news. 500 stories, many of which probably had a significant effect on many of our lives, though you won’t really know that until you read versions by writers who actually know what they’re talking about.

 Hopefully these stories were at least able to provide a few laughs in lieu of knowledge. Enough laughs to make getting a book full of these stories worthwhile? Well, that’s something only you can answer, I guess (though, if you want my opinion, four, maybe five chuckles over the course of the year seems more than enough).

 

The book–Tech, Please!–is now at Amazon in both ebook and paperback editions for your reading pleasure. They are currently listed separately (though the listings should soon merge):

Ebook: HERE

Paperback: HERE

Thanks for reading along this year, and stay tuned next week for the year’s final issue featuring stories that were written but didn’t find their way into the Weekly Tech Views for various reasons–the issue was running long, the content may have leaned a little north of PG-13, the story just wasn’t all that funny–haha, I mean, no, it was funny, it just didn’t come together quite like I… I… whatever. What I’m saying is it may be best read immediately after any alcohol-induced New Year’s celebrating.

 Happy Holidays, and may less than half your weekend be troubleshooting.

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

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Weekly Tech Views – Best of 2016 – Part 1

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

THE BEST OF THE WEEKLY TECH VIEWS – 2016

The end of the year approaches, and it’s time for the Weekly Tech Views Top Twenty! Compiled by a prestigious panel of the industry’s foremost syndicated humor writers, the results have been closely guarded–

Haha! No, as usual, I scrolled through the year’s stories and chose whatever was on screen the first twenty times our cat knocked an ornament off the Christmas tree.

(And even bigger news–all 500+ stories are available in the book Tech, Please! Get all the exciting details below!)

For the year 2016…

Number 20 (March 5)
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.

Number 19 (January 16)
Would You Like To See Hotels In The Area While You Find A Lawyer?
Google Maps for Android has added Driving Mode, a feature that will guess where you’re headed and plot a course.

“Why does it think we’re going to Marcie’s house? I haven’t been there in over a year, since she got drunk and hit on you at the Christmas party.”

“Uh, yeah. Weird.”

“Wait… this is your phone.”

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…”

Number 18 (February 13)
That Was Close–I Almost Didn’t Know That This CVS Had Two-Liter Sierra Mist On Sale!
Chrome for Android will soon start supporting bluetooth beacons. People near the beacons can access the “physical web” via notifications on their smartphones, where links provide information on one’s surroundings. A beacon might relay a nearby restaurant’s menu, sale prices at a store, or historical landmark information.

Some of you may remember an early precursor to this, experienced on childhood trips to the zoo. This device was called “The Big Metal Box That, After You Stick A Big Plastic Key Shaped Like An Elephant Into It, Yells Stuff At You About The Animal You’re Looking At.” I learned a lot of important information from those boxes, most importantly that if I played the same monkey spiel three times in a row I really had to hustle to catch up to my parents, who usually weren’t much for running.

Number 17 (April 23)
Though The Plots Have Nothing To Do With Reality, Virtual Or Otherwise
Virtual reality headset maker AuraVisor is teaming up with VR Bangers (not a joke) to provide in-room adult VR content for hotels in–go ahead, guess which city… that’s right–Montpelier, Vermont.

Okay, it’s Las Vegas. The visors–pre-loaded with requested videos–will rent for $20, which, given the technology, sounds not particularly expensive, seeing how hotel pricing results in that same $20 buying you a bottled water and a couple candy bars from the mini-bar. But where they get you is the highly-recommended $200 vat of Purell.

Number 16a-b (June 18)
Thanks, Apple!
We learned Monday that iOS 10 will allow users the long-wished-for ability to remove Apple’s pre-installed apps–like Stocks and Weather and Maps–from their devices. I have to give the gang in Cupertino credit for reducing by one the number of times I startle my wife and cat by shouting, “Damn it, Apple!”

Damn It, Apple!
We learned Wednesday that “removing” Apple’s pre-installed apps only gets rid of the icon and user data; the application remains on your device taking up almost as much space as always. A member of the iOS team took time from her hectic schedule to explain the reasoning behind the decision: “You should see the look on your faces! You thought you could delete them! Classic! This is what makes my job worthwhile!

Number 15a-b (June 11)
The GPS-Files
The Federal Aviation Administration has warned pilots that planes could be affected by “GPS Interference Testing” taking place at the Naval Air Weapons Center in the Mojave Desert. But are these GPS disturbances really being initiated by the government? Or are they covering up something they’d rather we didn’t know? Read the transcript of this radio message, intercepted immediately after the FAA’s warning, and decide for yourself:

“Sure, by all means, stay away if you can’t fly without GPS. Just because pilots used to do it doesn’t mean you should be ashamed by your inferiority. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a coward. But if you do have the guts to try it, we salute you ‘We’ being just some interested onlookers from your own planet that you don’t need to worry about. And rest assured, should you experience some temporary memory loss and/or a lingering tenderness in certain sensitive, probe-able areas, that’s completely normal. That is all. Bleep blorp. Damn it–I mean ‘thank you.’”

You Guys Again?
Lexus owners have been complaining that their information systems spontaneously reboot, display blank screens, and flash purple. The owners received a recorded message explaining that “the issue was likely related to satellite communications, and a fix is available at your nearest dealer. In the meantime, there is no danger in continuing to drive your vehicle, and should you experience some temporary memory loss and/or a lingering tenderness in certain sensitive, probe-able areas of your body, don’t worry, that’s completely normal. That is allThank blorp. Aaaaagh! Why can’t I ever get that?!”

Number 14 (July 9)
Sponsor Them All
As everyone knows by now, Pokemon Go, the augmented reality game, is available for iOS and Android. You try to catch Pokemon out in the real world, and you can locate them via your phone. Of course, to catch them you need PokeBalls, which are scattered at various PokeStops–nearby landmarks like schools, museums, libraries, and such.

Enjoy this innocent time of random locations, before all PokeStops conveniently relocate to highest-bidder locations McDonalds, Dairy Queen, Dunkin’ Donuts, and such. And watch for new “special edition” Pokemon being introduced, like Big Macander, Peanut Butter Parfaitachu, and Boston Kremelypuff.

Number 13 (July 16)
The “Lightning Never Strikes Twice” Theory
Music service Rhapsody is relaunching as Napster. “Great idea!” said Best Buy as they changed all their signs to “Circuit City.”

Number 12 (January 16)
Call Me When It’s Knight Rider-Ready
Tesla’s latest update includes the Summon feature, which enables the car to park or unpark itself, as long as the driver is within 33 feet. Cool tech. But look, it’s not bringing your car from the parking garage down the street to the front door of your office building.

Really, how many situations are there going to be when you’re within 33 feet of your car but unwilling to take five more seconds to walk the rest of the way? Sure, there are the times when you’re in a desperate fight for survival with a psychotic international spy who has spent years tracking you down and used some exotic variant of jujitsu to disarm you and knock you to the ground and has a gun aimed at your head and is about to finish you off to avenge that nasty business in Helsinki in ’03. And you activate Summon and your car hits him from behind, allowing you to turn the tables and strike another heroic blow for democracy. But that’s, what, three or four times a year?

Number 11 (February 27)
Who Knows Where The Hockey Stick Ends Up?
Robotics company Boston Dynamics posted a video of its humanoid Atlas robot picking up boxes and shelving them, refusing to be deterred even when a guy with a hockey stick repeatedly knocks the box from its grasp. When this guy knocks Atlas down onto its “face,” it is able to right itself.

A still frame from this video–Atlas pushing up from a kneeling position–has been chosen as the source for the first in a new line of inspirational posters, with the familiar caption IT’S NOT WHETHER YOU GET KNOCKED DOWN, BUT WHETHER YOU GET BACK UP WITH THE FACIAL RECOGNITION DATA FIRMLY FILED AWAY SO THAT AFTER HOURS, WHEN THAT CLOWN WITH THE STICK IS WATCHING THE VIDEO WITH THAT GIRL FROM ACCOUNTING HE WANTS TO IMPRESS, YOU CAN FIND HIM AND TEAR OFF THE ARMS THAT HELD THE STICK AND BEAT HIM WITH THEM.

Future variations will show a kitten hanging from each severed arm, because kittens sell inspirational posters.

 

Halfway home. We complete the countdown next week with 10 – 1. I know, it’s anticipation overload for those celebrating Christmas the same day. For those who don’t, there’s no law against putting up a Weekly Tech Views tree.

 

And if that wasn’t enough, the whole year’s worth of stories is now waiting for you at Amazon in the form of the book Tech, Please! The ebook is available right now, RIGHT HERE,  and the paperback will be there in a day or two.

While the book’s Kickstarter fell a bit shy of its goal, the executives here at Weekly Tech Views, Inc said, “Publish it anyway! The public needs to have access to this kind of journalism!”

When the laughter died down, the public immediately responded by enthusiastically… well, the book is just now out, so we’ll see what the public enthusiastically does. “…replaced all previously purchased holiday gifts with multiple copies of Tech, Please!” would be catchy.

Happy Holidays!

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

Creative Commons License
Weekly Tech Views: The Tech, No Logic Blog by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Weekly Tech Views: The Tech, No Logic Blog – Dec 11, 2016

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Welcome to the Weekly Tech Views–the widely proclaimed egg nog of technology writing! If the eggs had been left out on the counter overnight and that slightly “off” taste covered up with extra rum!

For the week of December 5 – 9, 2016…

The Family-Size Bag Of Chips Is The Real Problem
Amazon opened Amazon Go, a physical convenience store, that lets customers scan a QR code on their phone to get in, grab some snacks or a sandwich, and just walk out, knowing they will be automatically charged for what they’re carrying. This astounding technology does beg the obvious question however–“How easily can I retrieve the roast beef-and-Swiss I put in the hoodie of the guy walking out of the store in front of me?”

Break Out The Virtual Canned Air
Artificial intelligence company OpenAI made public their Universe interface, which lets an AI use a computer like a human by viewing a screen and using a virtual keyboard and mouse and getting a half-pound of virtual potato chip crumbs between the virtual keyboard’s keys.

I Wake Up In A Cold Sweat From The Leather Sport Seating Flashbacks
A car thief was apprehended when the car’s maker, BMW, remotely locked the man in the vehicle. Congratulations, of course, go out to the thief for the upcoming traditional multi-million-dollar claustrophobia-induced PTSD lawsuit victory.

What If We Use The Bingo Machine Next Week?
Bitcoin reached its highest value on the iBit exchange in nearly three years at $774. Some analysts believe this can be attributed to the recent shortage of cash in India, but those of us more familiar with the basic concept of Bitcoin understand the true influence is 7-7-4 coming up on the secondhand lotto machine they utilize at iBit headquarters.

NBC Claims Breaking News Pointless!
NBC News is shutting down its Breaking News app due to its lack of revenue generation. “Revenue? Have you tried a Faking News app?” asked Facebook.

Why Are They Saying We Should Call It The Alanis Morissette Update?
With 133,000 Galaxy Note 7s unaccounted for in the United States, Samsung will push out an update that will prevent charging of the devices, essentially bricking them. “Yes, as a matter of fact, we do know that fire is used to make bricks,” said every Samsung employee in response to everyone they know.

Our Lawyers Assure Us Data Charges Don’t Count As In-App Purchases
Nintendo announced that players will need an active internet connection to play the highly anticipated Super Mario Run mobile game. The company believes this unpopular move is necessary to prevent both piracy and more importantly, in a post-Wii U world, the unfamiliar and unsettling sensation of high expectations.

This also means that, in light of the huge demand for the NES Classic Edition–and its unfortunate lack of an internet connection–playing the any of the mini console’s thirty games will require the physical presence of a Nintendo middle-management-level employee (and while not officially required, letting him or her join an occasional game of Tecmo Bowl is considered good form).

Nature Abhors Good News For Samsung
In the latest turn of the five-year patent violation trial between Samsung and Apple, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Samsung did not have to pay a $399 million penalty for copying iPhone designs.

Said one Samsung attorney, “Finally! Something this year that goes our–”

“Don’t say it!” said the other attorneys.

“–way. What? What’s wrong?”

All across the globe, millions of Samsung POWERbot robotic vacuum cleaners chose that moment to increase their suction a hundredfold, tearing carpets from floors, yanking lights from low-hanging Christmas tree branches, and traumatizing countless small pets who’d been trained to ride on them in service of cute YouTube videos, before disintegrating and leaving behind, ironically, a large pile of dust.

 

There’s your weekly glass of smooth, creamy, festive tech news, well worth, one hopes, the significantly increased danger of intellectual salmonella.

Thanks to everyone who backed the Kickstarter for the Weekly Tech Views collection Tech, Please! While the goal wasn’t reached, I’m going to go ahead and produce the book and make it available within the next week in the more traditional manner. So if you thought you were done hearing about it here, take that.

 

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

 

Creative Commons License
Weekly Tech Views: The Tech, No Logic Blog by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Weekly Tech Views: The Tech, No Logic Blog – Dec 4, 2016

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Welcome to this holiday season edition of the Weekly Tech Views, where the stories focus on technology’s ability to bring humanity together in a spirit of love and sharing. Ha. No, it’s pretty much a greedfest. Enjoy.

 

AI: Assisting Impulses
Amazon unveiled a new AI platform, including Rekognition, which can “look” at things and recognize, for instance, the difference between breeds of dogs or the emotion conveyed by a person’s facial expression.

Fine. But I can do that. Let me know when it can read the emotions on the face of different breeds of dogs. Or better yet, our cat. Build that into a pair of glasses and then you’re talking. I know she feels different emotions, but it’s 50/50 whether her current look means “pet me” or “put your hands within three feet of me and I will shred those furless paws to the bone and you’ll be typing your stupid blog with your nose.”

Still,  Amazon sees real value in Rekognition, aside from giving the under-used eleventh letter of the alphabet some love. “Just think how convenient this will be for you as a consumer,” said a spokesperson, “when we recognize the delight on your face as you check out a $2,000 gaming computer and we automatically place it in your cart for you, saving you the unnecessary effort of clicking ‘Add to cart.’ What a relief, right?

“Oh, don’t worry, you won’t automatically buy it. Haha. Although… what if we said you could return it for free? How many would, do you think? I mean, once you have something you really want on your doorstep? I bet enough of you would keep–well, haha, that’s a discussion for another time, I suppose. A discussion worthy of a hefty bonus, I bet.

“Anyhow… for now, if at some point you go to your cart and survey what’s there and we recognize doubt or trepidation has crept into your expression as you consider checking out, don’t worry, because we will, of course–immediately and without any questions–suggest some other cool accessories to go with the rig. And we will continue to do so until that greedy gleam has been restored to your eye and thoughts of financial responsibility are just a silly memory.”

Why Don’t I Learn And Stick To Campaign Mode?
Sony has launched the PlayStation Communities app, allowing players to interact with fellow PS4 gamers right from their phones. Finally. This kind of thing has been long-awaited because it makes it so much more convenient–even while you aren’t playing the game–for an eleven-year-old to tell you how much you suck at Battlefield, in case it slipped your mind WHILE WORKING TEN HOURS A DAY INSTEAD OF SITTING IN A BEANBAG CHAIR  THE WHOLE FOUR-DAY HOLIDAY WEEKEND WITH A DUALSHOCK 4 PRACTICALLY WELDED TO YOUR HAND, YOU LITTLE PUNK!

Hakuna View Nada
While Netflix announced the welcome feature of being able to download programming for offline viewing, Disney properties will be a notable exception.

“Yeah, like we’re going to let people watch our stuff whenever they want,” said one Disney executive. “Hell, we don’t even let the poor shlubs buy it whenever they want. You’ve heard of the Disney Vault? We actually yank movies off shelves and refuse to take your money for them for seven years!

“We know there’s a downside–your six-year-old saw The Lion King at a neighbor’s house and won’t stop crying because you don’t own it and, in her eyes, you apparently don’t love her enough to get it. I’m sure that’s rough. Your kid’s tears are like little daggers to your heart. You want to cry along with them. But on the bright side, how fast will you open your wallet when we release the “Diamond Edition” for thirty bucks? Or fifty? Surely there’s no limit to what your kid’s happiness is worth? Seriously, it would be really helpful to us pricing-wise if you could ballpark a number.”

U-S-A! You Must Pay!
The United States saw record online sales over the holiday weekend, thanks to $3.34 billion on Black Friday and $3.45 billion on Cyber Monday, pushing the five-day total to $12.8 billion, a 16% increase over last year. Still, this pales next to China’s Singles Day, where sales hit $18 billion in just 24 hours.

It’s one thing to be behind other countries in broadband speed or the education of our kids, but consumerism? How much we can spend in a day on frivolous items? The America I know is second to nobody when it comes to scraping together every last nickel to buy the new shiny must-have at the holidays. What, we’re suddenly a people worried about what we can afford? Why do you think credit card debt was invented? So we could be number two? Hell no!

Is it possible that some of you don’t know you can borrow from your 401k? Great, you’ll have an extra $250 in your account when you retire(1), but that doesn’t get you an Xbox One today, does it? Or help us look China in the eye.

Do you think our retailers stock their stores for Christmas in mid-October for nothing? Do you think they cram Big Bang Theory nativity sets onto shelves already crowded with decapitated zombie heads singing the Monster Mash because it’s fun? No, they do it so we can spend more money than any country on Earth!

It’s the shopping Olympics, people, and we are supposed to be the Dream Team. I hope you all think about that during your Happy Spartan Holidays.

You Got Your Dual Passive Subwoofers In My ARM Cortex-A53 CPU
Amazon may be working on a new version of the Echo, this one with a 7-inch screen and better speakers. This decision came after a research and development phase consisting of a warehouse worker stubbing his toe and crying out in pain, causing him to drop, in order, the Fire tablet he was carrying in his right hand, the gum he was chewing, and the bluetooth speaker in his left hand.

Had You Guys Going There, Didn’t I?
The hacker of the San Francisco Metro Transit Agency demanded a ransom of 100 bitcoins to not expose information they had obtained. Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief and chuckled as they looked around for the hidden cameras. Bitcoins, you’ll recall, are a fictional currency like Klingon darseks or Harry Potter-universe knuts. After intense “negotiations,” the SFMTA and the hacker settled on 75 Flanian pobble beads and the two parties shared a good laugh.

Does This Bezel Make My Glass Look Big?
Apple’s next iPad could have a one-inch larger screen in the same sized device. This sounds rather remarkable until you remember we do exactly the same thing about this time every year if you substitute “waistline” for “screen” and “pants” for “device.”

 

(1) Yeah, I know–compound interest. Maybe the $250 is $1,000 when you retire. Still a cheap sticker price for your patriotism, Scrooge.

 

No, the greed isn’t over yet. There’s still a Kickstarter to fund! Five days left to reach our goal. If you’d like to be the proud owner of Tech, Please!–a year’s worth of the Weekly Tech Views, now in book form!–you can visit the Kickstarter HERE. Watch a banana get sacrificed in the name of weird technology news!

 

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

 

Creative Commons License
Weekly Tech Views: The Tech, No Logic Blog by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.